May 26, 2010

Amendment 7 is a sneaky attempt to trick Florida voters

By Howard Troxler, Times Columnist

Want to know one of the sneaky things the Florida Legislature did this year?

It put Amendment 7 on this November's ballot.

Amendment 7 is a piece of work. It is an attempt to trick the voters of Florida …

… into wiping out Amendments 5 and 6, the previous two measures on the ballot -even if they pass.

Amendments 5 and 6 would require "fair districts" for politicians, not drawn to favor any party or incumbent. They were put on the ballot by citizen petition.

The Legislature does not like this idea, so it tacked on Amendment 7, even jiggling the order to make sure that it became "Amendment 7."

Amendment 7 says that it will be the part of the Constitution that is supreme, "without subordination to any other provision."

Including Amendments 5 and 6.

Fortunately, Florida law requires honest ballot language.

You can't use the ballot to fool the voters. You can't label a tax hike, for instance, as a "Tax Limitation Amendment." You can't call something "Save Our Environment" if it weakens pollution laws.

The Florida Supreme Court enforces this law. Over the years, it has thrown several measures off the ballot.

It should throw out Amendment 7 as well. A lawsuit has been filed by the state NAACP, the League of Women Voters and others asking for that.


There are good arguments against Amendments 5 and 6.

Critics say they set out rules for districts that are impossible to meet. The net effect will be to throw the whole shebang into the courts endlessly.

Some (but not all) black and Hispanic incumbents worry that Amendments 5 and 6 would decrease the ability of minority candidates to get elected.

Last, make no mistake: The goal is to make elections more competitive, so Republicans who now hold the majority have the most to lose (although some of the amendments' backers are Republicans too.)

Yet these objections go to the political merits and demerits of the idea - exactly the kind of thing, in a democracy, that should be debated in an open election.

Instead, Amendment 7, tries to use trickery to bypass the democracy. It tries to fool the voters into canceling out themselves. It should be thrown off the ballot.

How they voted

Here are the Tampa Bay legislators who voted to put Amendment 7 on the ballot:

Sens. Victor Crist, R-Tampa; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island; Ronda Storms, R-Brandon.

Reps. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa; Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin; Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa; Faye Culp, R-Tampa; Jim Frishe, R-Belleair Bluffs; Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City; Ed Homan, R-Tampa; Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater; John Legg, R-New Port Richey; Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs; Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill; Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Voting against putting Amendment 7 on the ballot:

Sens. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg.

Reps. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa; Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg; Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg; Janet Long, D-Seminole; Betty Reed, D-Tampa; Ron Schultz, R-Homosassa.

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