A poll released today by Floridians for Affordable Reliable Energy (FARE) shows that an overwhelming number of Florida voters are leery of a utility deregulation ballot amendment being marketed as “energy choice.” The poll showed only 40 percent of those surveyed would “probably or definitely” vote to deregulate Florida’s utilities.

The online poll, conducted August 14-21, sampled 1,344 Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. FARE said an online poll was the most accurate and fair way to present the actual ballot language voters would review before casting their vote.  In the memo about the survey released by FARE, the initiative falls far short of the 60 percent threshold required for passage when voters are given the actual language as it will appear on the ballot.

Scott Arcenaux, a FARE board member, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that any ballot initiative that starts so far below the 60% threshold necessary for passage is already in deep trouble, requiring substantial resources in order to persuade voters to change their minds.

“It’s clear that the initiative’s fiscal impact statement, which warns about significant cost increases and the loss of revenue for state and local governments makes voters think twice about this misleading proposal to dismantle Florida’s existing electricity system,” Arcenaux said.

Regardless of political party, voter opposition grew even more intense when voters were told that the measure would force three out of every four Florida households to change electricity providers, and that similar deregulation efforts in other states led to higher utility bills for consumers. The poll showed opposition to the measure jumped 40 points, from 22 percent to 62 percent.

“Support for this amendment is very soft and can be easily eroded when voters hear just a few basic facts about what it would do,” said Mark Allen, President of AmericanPublic.us, which conducted the poll.

In its press release about the poll, FARE included a letter from a bipartisan coalition of Florida’s U.S. Congressional Delegation which includes liberal Democrats like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and fiscally conservative Republicans like Ted Yoho. The letter expresses significant and unified opposition to the deregulation proposal, citing concerns about higher utility rates and significantly reduced reliability:

“In a state prone to hurricane disasters, Florida consumers must have a reliable energy market.”  

The letter was addressed to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has argued in a legal brief filed with the Florida Supreme Court that the deregulation amendment also violates the state constitution on the grounds that voters are being asked to decide a very complex issue being presented as an overly simplified single question. Florida law limits ballot initiatives to a single issue. Moody argues that the oversimplified ballot language makes it impossible for voters “to understand the true meaning and ramifications of the proposed amendment.”

The court will hold a hearing on the issue on Wednesday.