Miami Herald by Mary Ellen Klas
August 14, 2018
Six of the eight amendments placed on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission require voters to “pay a price for the right to vote for or against them,’’ retired Florida chief justice Harry Lee Anstead argued Tuesday in a lawsuit filed with the state Supreme Court.
Anstead, who served on the Supreme Court from 1994 to 2009, is asking his former colleagues to remove six proposed constitutional amendments from the November ballot because they are either unconstitutionally misleading or violate First Amendment rights. He was joined by former Florida Elections commissioner Robert Barnas, and the court has given the state until Monday to reply.
They argue in the “quo warranto” petition that the “bundled” amendments unconstitutionally prevent voters from making a simple “yes” or “no” decision on them
“This is logrolling and a form of issue gerrymandering that violates the First Amendment right of the voter to vote for or against specific independent and unrelated proposals to amend the Constitution without paying the price of supporting a measure the voter opposes or opposing a measure the voter supports,’’ Anstead and Barnas wrote.
“… No sufficiently important state interest justifies such an infringement upon the right to vote.”
Anstead, who is filing the measure as a citizen and a voter, said he was motivated to challenge the amendments because he was “very distressed to see that the Constitution Revision Commission seemed to establish a pattern with the issues” on the ballot.
“That pattern was bringing together essentially unrelated issues and putting them in individual packages that required voters that might support one of the issues to also agree to contradictory issues — or those that should be individually evaluated.”
The Constitution Revision Commission is impaneled once every 20 years with the task of updating the state’s constitution and the power to put amendments directly on the ballot.
The Republican-dominated commission decided that because it had nearly 20 ideas, and it was concerned about “voter fatigue,” it wanted to merge related ideas into six amendments: Amendment 6, which links three proposals that would create a bill of rights for crime victims and set new requirements for judges.; Amendment 7, which provides new survivor benefitsfor first responder and military survivors while also requiring university trustees to agree by a two-thirds super-majority to raise college fees; Amendment 8, which combines new eight-year school board term limits with expanded civics education in public schools, to a plan to enable charter schools to bypass local school boards; Amendment 9, which links a ban on oil and gas drilling in state-owned waters to a proposal to add vaping to the ban on smoking indoors; Amendment 10, which combines a plan to change the start dates of the legislative session, to creating a counterterrorism office and a state veterans affairs department to a proposal that would require counties like Miami-Dade and Broward to have all county-level offices be elected; and Amendment 11, which eliminates two obsolete provisions relating to “alien” citizens and criminal sentencing.