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Tallahassee Judge Considers Bundled Constitutional Proposals

Erich Martin
Credit Erich Martin

Many of the proposed constitutional amendments heading for the Florida ballot this November are facing at least one challenge.  Tallahassee judge Karen Gievers heard arguments Wednesday about whether proposals bundled by the Constitution Revision Commission should go before voters.

Six of the eight proposals put forward by the Constitution Revision Commission are facing a challenge because they are bundled—in other words more than one issue is contained in each proposal. Gievers heard augments Wednesday on only three of those proposals. Gievers said she wanted to limit the scope of the arguments because the other three are facing separate challenges.

I will be focusing primarily on matters that I have jurisdiction on—namely the bundling relating to the three proposals that are not already across town,” Gievers said.

Joe Little is the lawyer representing the group taking issue with the CRC’s decision to bundle the proposals. He says the move doesn’t allow a voter to evaluate each issue on its own merits. For example, he says one proposal talks about both off-shore drilling and vaping.

“We’re not going to permit drilling in our Florida waters and we’re not going to permit vaping in work places. Now these are two independent matters and unrelated matters and it's entirely possible that a person would say, well, I don’t think this thing about vaping is of constitutional status, it shouldn’t be in the constitution. I want to vote no, but I want to vote yet for drilling. I can’t have it both ways. I’ve got to take the package,” Little said.

Little argues there’s no reason for the state to group those issues together and he says doing so violates a voter’s rights. But Jordan Pratt who represents the state says CRC members grouped the proposals to reduce the number of items a voter must consider—or to avoid, what he calls ballot fatigue.

And Pratt argues it’s not unusual for a voter to be faced with bundled decisions.

“For example, votes on who to elect for the president and vice president—a measure that is submitted to the voters as a unified proposal even though they could for example, like a candidate for president of one party and like a candidate for vice president of another party who appear on separate lines of the ballot,” Pratt said.

Pratt says voters also considered bundled amendments when the Florida constitution was revised in 1968. Election supervisors must send ballots to overseas voters by September 22. There is no deadline for when the judge must rule, but Gievers says she will work quickly.

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