Amendment 4 would impact all future amendments

Sample ballot for Leon County, Fla. Photo courtesy

On the Nov. 3 ballot, Floridians are being asked to vote “yes” or “no” to Amendment 4, which would require residents to vote twice on proposed constitutional amendments in two successive elections for official approval. As of now, amendments need to be approved only once and many Floridians think it should stay that way.

This amendment would keep the current guideline for constitutional amendments as they will still be required to get 60% of the votes for both elections.

Keep Our Constitution Clean, a committee located in Fort Lauderdale, that is sponsoring Amendment 4, believes that it will provide “safeguards” for amending the state’s constitution.

According to the committee’s website, they propose that the amendment will “preserve Florida’s constitution for future generations by educating voters on the impact of various constitutional initiative petitions and, secondarily, protecting professional canvassers from unscrupulous and illegal practices.”

This “think twice” initiative for constitutional amendments is not highly favored by many residents. According to Florida Today, 11 newspapers in the state are saying “no” to Amendment 4. The Palm Beach Post, Orlando Sentinel and the Tampa Bay Times are among the publications urging voters to say no to Amendment 4.

The Sun-Sentinel editorial board calls the amendment “misleading and dangerous,” and the Orlando Sentinel describes it as a “naked attempt to stop citizens from amending Florida’s constitution.”

Many of these publications believe the amendment to be in favor of the ruling and wealthy class as it will lead to limiting the power of citizens to amend the state’s constitution. Getting an amendment on the ballot requires countless hours of canvassing and endless petitioning for citizens who may not have access to $8.85 million in in-kind contributions from wealthy law firms like the Keep Our Constitution Clean committee.

The sample ballot for the 2020 general election in Leon County includes a disclaimer that states, “the financial impact of this amendment cannot be determined due to ambiguities and uncertainties surrounding the amendment’s impact.

This disclaimer implies that the amount of money this amendment would cost to hold two elections for proposed constitutional amendments has not been finalized, which does not seem to inspire many citizens to vote “yes.”

Political expert and dean of the Division of Behavioral, Social Sciences and Education at Tallahassee Community College, Richard Murgo, believes that there are two strong sides to this amendment ― protecting the state constitution from amendments targeting policy issues and protecting the voice of democracy.

“We have amendments that dictate things way outside the structure of government, and I think that is what this amendment is trying to go at. We have more ways to amend our constitution than any other state constitution, so it is attempting to make it more difficult,”Murgosaid. “The other side of this is that it is the greatest level of democracy in our state where people can go at the law directly and create policy bypassing the Legislature and other branches of government.”

Murgo believes this amendment may take away the Democratic Party’s access to policy in the state, as it will make amending the constitution accessible only to wealthy lobbyists who have enough money for two elections. Overall, Murgo believes that Amendment 4 does not have a high chance of moving forward.

Aliceyn Cudjo, a political science student at FAMU, hopes that the amendment will not be approved by Floridians and believes that it can lead to voter disenfranchisement. Disenfranchisement is a political term that describes a situation where a certain group is deprived of their privilege or right in political elections, according to Oxford Dictionary.

 “I am opposed to that [Amendment 4] because people may not want to go back out to vote again,” Cudjo said. “Why wait for another election cycle to see if the amendment should happen?”