With six ballot amendments facing voters on the 2020 ballot, the potential exists to radically alter the state’s foundational document and transform how Florida works. Here’s our voting guide to each of them:
Amendment 1: Citizen Requirement to Vote
This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election. The Florida Constitution currently says every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state may register and vote.
VOTE YES. This is a no-brainer, and it’s not clear why any advocacy groups would argue against it, though sadly, there are some. The amendment closes a loophole in the state constitution that could allow local or state lawmakers to expand who may cast a ballot. By restricting the right to vote to only U.S. citizens, Amendment 1 will prevent any future legal gymnastics that might open the door to non-citizens playing a role in our elections.
Amendment 2: Minimum Wage Hike to $15
Raises Florida’s minimum wage to $10 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.
VOTE NO. Raising minimum wage is essentially legislating inflation. Minimum wage is supposed to be a “starting wage.” It was never intended to be a “living wage.” It is the bare minimum starting wage for unskilled labor, and works to prevent employers from taking advantage of those new to the workforce by paying them less. Yet even responsible high school students can find jobs paying more than minimum wage. Why? Because they are worth paying more to the employer that values their skills and contributions to the business.
This proposal will kill over 150,000 restaurant jobs across the state. Coronavirus has already killed thousands of restaurants this year. Passing a minimum wage hike will kill off any restaurants and small businesses that are still barely hanging on. And for what? Currently, a non-skilled high schooler can easily earn above minimum wage if they show value to their employers. The absurd example of “family of four” living on a single provider earning minimum wage is a ridiculous argument – such entry-level jobs were never intended to support a family – and such families that do exist qualify for a wide range of financial assistance from the government, too.
Further, raising minimum wage will cause everything we buy to cost more…everything. Many retailers already use self-checkout lines – eliminating minimum wage jobs. Obviously, it is already too costly to pay people the current minimum wage just to service customers at the point of sale. If this amendment passes, Flippy the Burgerbot will replace the lunch shift at your favorite fast food restaurant, and more automation will replace expensive labor. It’s already happened in California, where minimum wage there is headed for $15/hour by 2023.
More robots flipping burgers and replacing other unskilled positions means fewer jobs for actual humans. This in turn will increase the ranks of those in poverty, which ultimately means more government programs will be needed.
Amendment 3: All Voters Vote
If passed, this amendment would eliminate the existing primary election system and establish a top-two open primary system for state office. In other words, it would be possible to have two Democrats or two Republicans facing off in the general election if this amendment passes.
VOTE NO. There are few issues these days upon which Democrats and Republicans agree. This is one of them. Both parties oppose this amendment.
The existing system already allows everyone to vote in the primary – as long as they register with a political party first. That’s the entire point of a primary election anyway: to nominate a candidate from each party and support those candidates in the general election.
Want to participate in that process? Easy. Join one of the state’s existing political parties. It’s absurd that those not belonging to a party should be able to participate in selecting a candidate for the party. As one incredulous person observes: “A high schooler can’t go to a rival high school and vote for that school’s student body government, or homecoming court can they? No, that’s ridiculous.”
Under Florida’s constitution, political parties aren’t even a constitutionally mandated entity. Political parties, at their core, are nothing but a group of people banding together, agreeing to vote for the same person, once they all agree on who that person will be. Allowing someone from outside that group to have a say in who that person is makes no sense.
Amendment 4: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments
Passage of this amendment would install protections for the Florida Constitution directly into the document. These protections would require that any proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution be approved by the voters in two subsequent election cycles, instead of one, in order for the change to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.
VOTE YES. Florida voters have experienced buyer’s remorse in the not-so-distant past on issues like classroom size amendments that proved far more expensive than the amendment’s original backers claimed. Passing Amendment 4 will raise the bar so that only the best amendments make it into the state’s constitution.
While “direct democracy” can sometimes be relied upon to circumvent an unresponsive or deadlocked state legislature, more often than not, proposed amendments are complex mechanisms for bringing about change, and they are often far more complicated than voters should be expected to understand – especially unengaged voters who are easily persuaded by a clever ad campaign or who only turn out in presidential election years and don’t study issues before heading to the ballot box.
Amendment 5: Expanding the limit to Florida’s homestead exemption
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective date January 1, 2021, to increase, from 2 years to 3 years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.
VOTE YES. Increasing the number of years to allow a homeowner to transfer their exemptions is a good thing and prevents future legislatures from eliminating this tax break and spending the money on other programs. While a change from 2 years to 3 years isn’t going to have a big fiscal impact, it will help many families by lowering their property taxes.
Amendment 6: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans who had Permanent, Combat-related Disabilities
This would amend Section 6 of Article 7 of the Florida Constitution to allow a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran. This would be in effect until the spouse remarries, sells or disposes of the property.
VOTE YES. See our reasoning on Amendment 5, which is similar. And besides, we need to do all we can to support the surviving spouses of our deceased veterans. It’s simply the right thing to do.