In the month since the League of Women Voters of Florida launched their Voter Assistance Hotline, 1-855-FL-VOTER (1-855-358-6837), more than 1,000 calls have poured in, most of them from voters confused and frustrated by the 11 constitutional amendments that appear on this year's ballot.
These citizens, who are trying to exercise their right to vote responsibly, based on full understanding of the effects of their decisions, have turned to the League to unravel the amendment summaries and explain their meaning.
Some calls have taken over an hour, reports League Executive Director Jessica Lowe-Minor. "Many callers start by apologizing, saying it must be their fault, they must be stupid, because they don't understand the language or true intent of the amendments. We assure them, 'It's not your fault; these really are exceptionally difficult to understand and unravel.'"
With misleading names and lengthy summaries (for example, the 600+ word summary of Amendment 4, taking up nearly a full column of the multi-page ballot), the amendments--all generated by the Legislature--have made this year's ballot the longest in Florida's history.
"Our callers' problems can be traced directly to the Legislature. Because of a law they passed in 2011, legislators don't have to follow the same rules as citizens' initiatives, which require judicial review, accurate titles and clear 75-word summaries," explained League President Deirdre Macnab.
"If the Legislature wants voters to support their constitutional initiatives, they have a responsibility to present them fairly, and in a way that voters can easily understand," Macnab added.
Although the League does not take positions on candidates or political parties, the organization does take positions on issues. Based on its research, the League has recommended opposing all of the amendments for three reasons. Macnab explained, "First, none of these proposals belong in our state Constitution; second, some of them attack our basic freedoms; and third, others would risk harming Florida's economic condition."
Now the League has added a fourth reason to vote "No" on all the measures. "If you don't understand the amendments, don't skip them. Reject them," Macnab urges. "Send a message to legislators by defeating their incomprehensible, misnamed, intentionally confusing proposals. AND, be sure to work your way to the end of your ballot, because important local charter and tax initiatives follow the state amendments."
The League encourages all voters to take the time to study the entire ballot and to consider their options for mail-in or early voting. All voters can request a mail-in ballot by calling their local supervisor of elections office by Oct. 31. Early voting starts this Saturday, Oct. 27 and runs through Nov. 3. Voters should bring a photo ID (note: it does not need to have their current address).
Voting schedules and location information are available at BeReadyToVote.org, the League's one-stop, all-inclusive resource for election and voting information (available in Spanish at VamosAVotar.org). The Voter Assistance Hotline 1-855-FL-VOTER (1-855-358-6837) is open to all citizens. Information is also available through the League's mobile app.