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  1. Opinion

Amendment 1: Times Editorial Board recommendation

On whom can vote, should “only" replace “every” in the Florida Constitution?

Let’s get this out of the way. You have to be a U.S. citizen to vote in Florida. That’s the law, and it’s not open to interpretation. Non-citizens can’t vote. Period. So there is no need to amend the Florida Constitution on this point, as Amendment 1 would do.

The Florida Constitution currently defines who can vote this way: “Every citizen of the United States who is at least 18 years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law.” That phrase “every citizen” is welcoming and clear. Amendment 1 proposes editing “every” to “only,” as in “Only a citizen of the United States ...” That’s a pinched and totally unnecessary wording change that accomplishes nothing.

It’s already against the law for non-citizens to vote. To those who argue that the change just makes the law even clearer, the proper response is that the law — and the Florida Constitution — already leave absolutely no doubt. Don’t be bullied into voting for unnecessary wording changes under the guise of clarity or silly fears.

An organization called Florida Citizen Voters sponsored the amendment, and its chairman argues that the change could prevent cities from allowing non-citizens to vote, as San Francisco allowed a handful to do in local school board races there two years ago. Voters in the Sunshine State need no reminding that Florida is not California, let alone San Francisco. In Florida, only U.S. citizens can vote, whether the state Constitution is amended or not. The Florida Constitution should not be amended on a whim — or to “fix” a problem that doesn’t exist.

On Amendment 1, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting no.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

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