Forum held to educate local voters

Local candidates faced a mixed crowd of potential voters Tuesday at the Women’s Club in Los Robles Park.

The League of Women Voters of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Women’s Club sponsored a forum to educate voters on the issues of the upcoming election. The eight major constitutional amendments on the state ballot were debated in front of a standing-room-only crowd.

Marilynn Wills, President of the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee, said the forum’s focus was to better educate and prepare voters for the issues facing Florida in the 2004 election.

“Our main goal in the League of Women Voters is not just getting people out to vote. We also want to make sure that they are informed about the issues, and that they know their rights once they get to the polling place,” Wills said.

The forum also hosted candidates for the 11 different offices on the Nov. 2 ballot.

“The candidates will be doing more than just giving a speech; they’ll actually be taking (written) questions,” Wills said.

Some in attendance had already come to a decision about who they would be voting for next month, but wanted to attend just to become better informed on the issues.

Gladys Kane, a member of the Tallahassee Women’s Newcomers Club, said, “I know all that I need to know (about the candidates) to make a decision, but I haven’t paid too much attention to the constitutional amendments. That’s why I wanted to attend tonight.”

The event was called to order at 6 p.m. by moderator Theresa Marsenburg of WFSU-TV. Guest speakers on both sides of the issues were allowed to debate the pros and cons of each of Florida’s proposed constitutional amendments.

This year’s election will decide several major issues in the lives of many Floridians. Such issues as parental notification for teen abortions and a statewide minimum wage will be placed before voters on Nov 2.

Some students who attended the event were surprised by how much that they did not know about the upcoming election.

“This is honestly the first that I’ve ever heard of some of those topics, and I really think that it’s a shame because I’m probably the rule instead of the exception,” said Ashli Goings, a sophomore psychology student at Florida State University from Miami.

“I’m glad that I decided to come. I’m walking away with a lot more information than what I came with.”

Debra Henley represented the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers. Henley spoke to the audience about Amendments 3, 7 and 8.

“People are just now starting to think about how they’re going to vote on these key amendments and we’re just trying to help them make the most informed decisions,” Henley said.

Henley advised, “If there is any question about an amendment you should vote no, because the constitution is permanent and it’s very difficult to change after the fact.”

At 7 p.m., the candidates received their opportunity to address the audience. Candidates from the 2nd and 4th Congressional districts were in attendance for the event. Also debating were candidates for the state legislature, county tax collector and superintendent of schools. Each candidate was allowed a three minute slot to make a speech. The speech was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

U.S. Congressional candidate Bev Kilmer said that she was grateful for the opportunity to interact with the public on such a close level.

“With forums such as this, people have a chance to actually see and contrast us together.”

Contact Anthony Moore at