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Of the proposed amendments headed to the ballot this year, three (amendments 4, 5 and 6) were placed there by groups that circulated petitions and gathered the required number of signatures. The other amendments were placed there by approval of the state Legislature.

The state Legislature can place proposed amendments on the ballot without prior review by the state Supreme Court or other agencies. However, groups seeking to place an amendment on the ballot through a petition initiative must follow 10 steps. To get the initiative on the ballot, groups must obtain 8 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the previous presidential election. Those signatures must come from more than half of the state’s 25 congressional districts. In Florida in 2010, groups needed 676,811 signatures to get on the ballot. Here is the process for getting a citizen initiative on the ballot:

 

  1. The individual or group wishing to propose an amendment must register as a political committee with the Division of Elections.
  2. The sponsoring political committee is required to submit the proposed initiative amendment petition form to the Division of Elections before it is circulated for signatures. The division reviews the initiative petition form to ensure it conforms to state law. For instance, its title cannot exceed 15 words and its summary cannot exceed 75 words.
  3. Once it is approved, the Division of Elections will assign a serial number to the approved form and notify the sponsoring committee.
  4. The sponsoring political committee may begin circulating the petitions for signatures.
  5. The sponsoring political committee submits signed petition forms to the supervisor of elections in the county of residence of the signee for verification of signatures.
  6. For each signature checked, 10 cents, or the actual cost of checking the signature, whichever is less, is paid to the supervisor of elections. If the committee can’t pay the charges without imposing an undue burden on the organization, a written certification of such inability may be submitted to the Division of Elections to have signatures verified at no charge.
  7. Upon completion of the verification, the supervisor of elections begins certifying signatures.
  8. Once a committee obtains signatures from 10 percent of the voters required from at least 25 percent of the congressional districts, the division will send the petition to the attorney general. Within 30 days of receipt, the Attorney General will petition the
    Supreme Court, requesting an advisory opinion regarding the compliance of the text of the proposed amendment.
  9. At the same time the petition is sent to the attorney general, a copy is sent to the Financial Impact Estimating Conference. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference reviews the amendment and completes an analysis and financial impact statement. If the amendment goes on the ballot, the financial impact statement will be placed there with the summary.
  10. Upon a determination that the constitutionally required number of signatures and distribution of signatures by congressional districts has been obtained by Feb. 1 of the year of the election, the secretary of state will issue a certificate of ballot position to the sponsoring political committee.

Source: Florida Division of Elections

Florida voters love their citizens’ ballot initiatives. They have voted on 14 since 2000 and passed every one of them.

Florida voters supported voluntary pre-kindergarten, smaller class sizes, limits on workplace smoking and protections for pregnant pigs. They also supported the creation of a high-speed rail system – and then voted for an amendment to repeal it four years later.

In 11 of the 15 states with the most citizen-led initiatives on the ballot, voters have rejected at least half of them. Florida voters have said “yes” to everything since 1996, when they shot down a proposal to levy a fee on raw sugar to help restore the Everglades. But Florida’s streak of all citizens’ initiatives earning voters’ approval isn’t likely to last through another decade. A change approved by voters in 2006 makes it more difficult to get amendments passed. That change requires approval by 60 percent of voters, up from 50 percent. Under that new standard, five of the 14 amendments approved between 2000 and 2008 – would have failed.