In the presidential election, Florida voters demonstrated how far the state has come toward embracing diversity. On two constitutional amendments, they signaled how far there is to go.
Amendment 1 was nothing but an attempt to delete outdated, unused language in the state Constitution regarding the power to ban foreign nationals ineligible for citizenship from owning land in the state. There was no campaign for it or against it. Yet it won only 48 percent of the vote, apparently because voters read the ballot language and concluded it had something to do with the current debate over immigration. It received more than half the vote in just five counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Sarasota. Clearly, there has to be a better voter education effort even for innocuous amendments.
While the Amendment 1 results are curious, the Amendment 2 outcome is particularly disappointing. Florida joined Arkansas, Arizona and California on Tuesday in approving ballot initiatives that ban gay marriage. In this state, it was entirely unnecessary. There already is a state law banning marriage between couples of the same sex. Yet Amendment 2 won 62 percent of the vote statewide and a majority in every county but one, Monroe. Voters who looked beyond race in the presidential election could not look beyond sexual orientation to grasp that the impact of this amendment could stretch far beyond gay marriage to ban state recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships. It likely will be up to the courts to protect the rights of Floridians who have entered into legal agreements for financial and medical reasons.
As encouraging as the presidential election results are about Florida's evolvement in social attitudes, the vote totals on the constitutional amendments confirm there is more work to be done.