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Florida abortion rights group ‘confident’ it has enough signatures for 2024 ballot

Floridians Protecting Freedom said it will submit 1.4 million petitions to the state by the end of the month.
Abortion rights protesters gathered at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square in Tampa on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. [ AYA DIAB | Times ]

The group behind a constitutional amendment that would protect abortion access in Florida says it is “confident” it has enough signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot.

But even if it gets the required 891,523 verified petitions by the Feb. 1, 2024, deadline, the fate of the proposed ballot measure still depends on the state’s conservative Supreme Court.

As of Tuesday, elections officials have verified 753,771 of the petitions submitted by Floridians Protecting Freedom, according to the Department of State. More are in the verification process. The group said it expects to submit a total of 1.4 million petitions by the end of this month.

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“Floridians have shown that they want to see this initiative on the ballot,” campaign director Lauren Brenzel said in a statement. Brenzel added, “We’re confident we’re going to submit enough petitions to get on the ballot.”

The group said it plans to submit all petitions by Jan. 2, 2024, to give supervisors of elections offices time to validate them ahead of the deadline.

Members of the group have said its effort is nonpartisan and that it estimates that more than 150,000 of the petitions collected have come from Republicans.

The amendment would protect abortion access in Florida until viability, which is estimated to be around 24 weeks. The text of the amendment reads in part that “no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

If approved by voters, the amendment would effectively undo Florida’s current law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. State lawmakers also this year passed a stricter abortion measure that would limit most abortions after six weeks. That law could be enacted depending on the outcome of an ongoing battle in the Florida Supreme Court over the current 15-week law.

In addition to gathering the total number of petitions required, the group must also have a certain number of petitions, equal to 8% of the votes cast in the last presidential election, from at least half of Florida’s 28 congressional districts.

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As of Tuesday, the group has enough petitions in eight congressional districts, according to the state website. Floridians Protecting Freedom has cautioned on social media that nothing is official until the state finishes certifying signatures.

Anna Hochkammer, the executive director of Florida’s Women Freedom Coalition, one of the groups involved with the amendment push, said the next focus is engaging volunteers, ensuring people are registered to vote and doing polling, research and testing to make sure they are getting their message out in the right way.

“You can’t copy-paste when it comes to Florida,” Hochkammer said.

The effort to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot is backed by groups including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Florida and has raised nearly $9 million as of the end of September.

In Ohio, voters in November approved a ballot measure to protect abortion, making it the seventh state since 2022 where voters have opted to either affirm abortion access or deny further restrictions.

Floridians Protecting Freedom launched its campaign immediately after the close of Florida’s legislative session in May, giving the group less than a year to collect the required petitions.

Once the group officially gets the required number of signatures, the language of the proposed amendment must pass scrutiny by the Florida Supreme Court. Attorney General Ashley Moody has already asked the court to disqualify the amendment, saying the language could confuse voters.

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If the Supreme Court approves the ballot language, the group would need at least 60% of Florida voters to approve the amendment.

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