Six Amendments to Watch Out For in Florida Elections

‘Vote Here’ sign placed on the walkway to a neighborhood polling place, as seen on election day in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Photo: Jillian Cain Photography/

With the presidential election less than two months away, many other offices and issues will be decided when voters go to the polls. In Florida, there are six ballot questions that could change the state’s constitution. The first four amendments are citizen initiatives. A citizen’s initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a government to choose to either enact a law or hold a public vote in parliament.

Florida voters also will decide whether the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour. They could transform how the state’s elections are held in the future. The other two questions were placed on the ballot by the state Legislature. The proposed amendments must receive at least 60% approval from voters to become law.

Amendment 1

Citizenship requirement to vote in Florida elections.

Proposed by: Petition drive carried out by Florida Citizen Voters, a political committee funded by secret donors

The state constitution says, “Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”

The amendment would change the first two words to three words: “Only a citizen.”

Pros: John Loudon, the leader of Florida Citizen Voters, says the change is needed to clarify the constitution and ensure noncitizens are never allowed to vote in Florida.

Cons: No formal opposition has formed in Florida. A few communities in the country have allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections. San Francisco allows all parents regardless of citizenship status with children in the school system to vote in school board elections.

Amendment 2

Raising Florida’s minimum wage.

Proposed by: Petition drive carried out by Florida For A Fair Wage, which was heavily funded by Orlando attorney John Morgan

Sponsored by Florida For a Fair Wage, it would increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour effective Sept. 30.

Each Sept. 30 thereafter, the minimum wage would increase by $1 per hour until it reaches $15 per hour Sept. 30, 2026.

Then, future minimum wage increases would be adjusted annually for inflation beginning Sept. 30, 2027.

Pros: Supporters say cash-strapped Floridians are overdue for a wage boost, and raising the minimum wage would help the economy because low-income workers tend to spend what they earn. The amendment appeals to liberal voters and could be used to help generate more Democratic turnout for their nominee Joe Biden.

Cons: Opponents and industry groups argue raising the minimum wage will result in hours being cut and less hiring. They also say the higher labor costs will be passed on to consumers through higher prices.

Amendment 3

All voters vote in primary elections for state Legislature, governor and cabinet.

Proposed by: Petition drive carried out by All Voters Vote, which is substantially funded by South Florida health care businessman Mike Fernandez

All voters could participate in primary elections and all candidates for office would appear on the same primary ballot. The two highest vote-getters would advance to the general election. This change could mean two Republicans or two Democrats facing each other in the general election.

Pros: Voters with no party affiliation are locked out of partisan primary elections. This would open up elections so they could participate. Supporters argue that candidates will need to answer to a broader group of people instead of tailoring their message to partisan voters.

Cons: Opponents also say it will suppress Black representation in the Legislature by injecting independent and Republican voters into Black-majority districts. Third-party candidates also could be prohibited from competing in the November general election.

Amendment 4

Voter approval of constitutional amendments.

Proposed by: Petition drive carried out by Keep Our Constitution Clean, which is funded through a secretive nonprofit group linked to a lobbying organization for Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar Corp. and other big businesses.

The amendment would require proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution be approved by voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. It would retain the current 60% approval thresholds for passage in each of the two elections. It is sponsored by Keep Our Constitution Clean PC.

Pros: Supporters say Florida’s ballot initiative process amounts to direct democracy running amok. It should be extremely difficult to change the constitution, they argue, and the state Legislature should pass new laws.

Cons: The ballot initiative process is the only way Floridians can bypass the Florida Legislature; making it harder for Florida voters to amend the constitution could doom future ballot initiatives, such as legalizing recreational marijuana.

 A citizen initiative requires at least 766,200 verified signatures on petitions collected from at least 14 of the 27 congressional districts.

Amendment 5

Limitation on homestead assessments.

Proposed by: The Florida Legislature

The Legislature proposes amending the state constitution, effective Jan. 1, to increase, from two years to three years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.

Pros: Taxable value increases are capped at 3% on homesteaded properties under the Save Our Homes benefit. This would give homeowners more time to transfer that tax break to a new property. It passed the Florida Legislature unanimously.

Cons: Local governments would lose some money. The amendment would reduce local property taxes by $1.8 million, beginning in fiscal year 2021-2022, eventually growing to an annual reduction of $10.2 million, according to a fiscal analysis.

Amendment 6

Ad valorem tax discount for spouses of certain deceased veterans who had permanent combat-related disabilities.

Proposed by: The Florida Legislature

The Legislature proposes that the homestead property tax discount for veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities would carry over to the veteran’s surviving spouse who holds legal title to, and permanently resides on, the homestead property until the survivor remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property.

Pros: This would provide additional assistance to Florida veterans. It passed the Florida Legislature unanimously.

Cons: It would mean slightly less revenue for schools and local government. School tax revenues would initially fall by $400,000 with a recurring loss of $1.6 million, according to a fiscal analysis. Non-school property tax revenues would fall initially by $600,000 with a recurring loss of $2.4 million.

If approved by voters in November, the changes would take effect January 1, 2021.