A group of Tampa Bay area sheriffs and clerks of court launched a voter education effort in Tampa Thursday on Amendment 10. It would allow voters in much of Florida to keep the ability to elect key officials.
Amendment 10 would require the legislature to keep the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But it also would preserve the right for voters to keep electing constitutional officers in Florida's most populous counties. Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast explained during a news conference Thursday at the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office:
"This ensures that your sheriff, your tax collector, your property appraiser, your clerk of the court, and of course, your supervisor of elections are elected by the people and directly accountable and very transparent to the people they serve," he said.
Prendergast said some communties have lost the right to elect those officials, which are now appointed positions.
Hillsborough Clerk of Courts Pat Frank said the amendment would keep power in the hands of the voters, rather than concentrating it in the hands of politicians.
"We want to be held accountable by voters, not by politicians who may hide behind a cloak," she said. "There is no Wizard of Oz in our business. We are directly accountable and responsible to each voter."
She called it a "right to vote" amendment.
Amendment 10 would only apply to "home rule" counties and cities, which can pass any regulation unless it's prohibited by state law.
The Florida Association of Counties says there are 20 such counties in Florida. Collectively, these counties are home to more than 75 percent of Florida's residents.
Here's the wording that will be on November's ballot:
Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even-numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.