Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Former Florida chief justice challenges Amendment 8, five others as unconstitutionally bundled

Retired Florida chief justice Harry Lee Anstead has asked his former panel to require justification for why six proposed constitutional amendments including Amendment 8 should remain on the November ballot, or to toss them out.

Anstead, joined by former Florida Elections commissioner Robert Barnas, contend in their filing to the state Supreme Court that the six proposals from the Constitution Revision Commission are unconstitutionally bundled, preventing voters from making a simple "yes" or "no" decision on them.

They challenge Amendment 8, which includes three ideas collectively grouped under education, as well as amendments 6 (rights of crime victims), 7 (first responder and military survivor benefits), 9 (offshore oil drilling and vaping), 10 (state and local government structure), and 11 (property rights).

Their key argument:

"Petitioners submit herein that each and every one of the foregoing proposed revisions bundles independent and unrelated proposals in a single ballot question in a manner that requires a voter to vote 'yes' for a proposal that the voter opposes in order to vote 'yes' for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter supports and to vote 'no' for a proposal the voter supports in order to vote 'no' for an independent and unrelated proposal the voter opposes. 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."

The plaintiffs recognize the CRC's ability to propose a comprehensive revision of the state constitution. However, they argue, this would require several discrete amendments and not a single overarching one.

The CRC has instead bundled independent and unrelated items, they argue: "All are beyond the power the Constitution has bestowed upon the Constitution Revision Commission and must be removed from the ballot."

Additionally, regarding Amendment 8, they specify that the proposal does not clearly state its intent.

"This ballot language is clearly and deceptive misleading because it does not disclose to the voter that the proposed amendment to Article IX § 4(b), adding the language 'established by the district school board,' eliminates the constitutional requirement in Article IX § 1(a) that Florida have a uniform …system of free public schools, which has been a continuous constitutional imperative in Florida beginning with the Constitution of 1868. This measure seeks sub silentio to subvert decisions such as Bush v. Holmes, 919 So. 2d 392 (Fla. 2006)," they write. "This subterfuge must not be perpetuated upon Florida voters."

A separate challenge of Amendment 8 is scheduled to be heard in Leon County Court on Friday. Several groups, including some CRC members, have in the past argued that the bundling of the ideas was inappropriate.

Read the latest challenge filed in the Supreme Court here.

UPDATE: The court has given respondent Secretary of State Ken Detzner until 5 p.m. Monday to reply to Anstead's petition.

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