Amendment 4: The Times Editorial Board recommendation
Should Florida voters have to pass amendments twice?
Crates loaded with election supplies are seen at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department.
Crates loaded with election supplies are seen at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 3, 2020

Amendment 4 is written in plain English, and it’s plain bad. It would require that future amendments proposed to the state constitution be approved by voters in two elections — instead of one, as is currently required. Why should the voters have to say it twice?

The Florida Constitution provides three basic methods for originating amendments — through the Legislature, a statewide commission or a citizen initiative. Amendments must be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters to be adopted. Amendment 4 requires all future proposed amendments to be approved by the voters in two elections. The current thresholds for passage still apply in each of the two elections, and the requirement would apply to all amendments regardless of how they originate.

If this is a good idea, how come nobody does it? A Florida legislative staff analysis in December found that Nevada was the only state that required two elections, and that standard applied only to citizen-led initiatives. Voters in North Dakota will decide a similar measure in the Nov. 3 general election.

Backers say the amendment will keep the constitution from becoming cluttered. But there already are high hurdles for placing an amendment on the ballot; proposals by the Legislature need support by three-fifths of the membership, revision commissions meet only every 20 years and citizens' initiatives face a host of financial and logistical barriers. Lawmakers also routinely ignore amendments that Florida voters approve (see: Conservation Lands, Felons' Voting Rights). This is just another tool for the ruling class to remain unanswerable and out-of-touch. The Times Editorial Board recommends a No vote on Amendment 4.

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