A one-word edit to Florida’s voting laws, a hike in the minimum wage and a major change to primary elections for state races are among the amendments proposed to Florida’s Constitution this year.
Florida voters will consider six amendments to the state’s constitution on the November ballot. A super-majority of 60% is required to amend the constitution.
Amendment 1 – Citizen Requirement for voting
• Vote “yes” to amend the language in the Florida Constitution to state that “Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
• Vote “no” to keep the existing language that states “Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
This amendment was placed on the ballot with the support of Citizen Voters Inc., a Florida-based 501(c)(4) organization founded by John Loudon. He supported similar measures in Alabama and Colorado. Loudon claims these amendments are needed across the nation because most state constitutions state who can vote but do not specify who cannot vote.
The League of Women Voters opposes this amendment because, “Amendment 1 would make no substantive change to Florida’s constitution, which already limits voting to U.S. citizens.”
Amendment 2 – Increase Minimum Wage to $15
• Vote “yes” to increase Florida Minimum Wage to $15 per hour by 2026.
• Vote “no” to keep the minimum wage at the current level of $8.46 per hour, with annual increases based on increases to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
Amendment 2 would increase the state minimum wage incrementally starting in 2021. The state minimum wage would increase each year to:
$10 on Sept. 30, 2021;
$11 on Sept. 30, 2022;
$12 on Sept. 30, 2023;
$13 on Sept. 30, 2024;
$14 on Sept. 30, 2025; and,
$15 on Sept. 30, 2026.
The amendment also requires that beginning on Sept. 30, 2027, there would be an annual adjustment to the state minimum wage based on increases to the CPI-W.
Florida Minimum Wage is currently adjusted each year based on changes in the CPI-W.
The amendment is supported by AFL-CIO, Florida for a Fair Wage, Organize Florida and the League of Women Voters.
The amendment is opposed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Supporters say raising the minimum wage would allow minimum wage workers in Florida to earn enough to afford basic household necessities including housing, food, transportation, child care and health care; help to reduce race and gender income inequality; and potentially increase economic activity by increasing household spending.
Opponents say keeping the minimum wage at its current rate with annual adjustments based on the CPI-W would allow businesses to keep labor costs at current levels, avoiding the impact of increased labor costs on the prices of consumer goods and maintain entry-level jobs for young people entering the job market. They also argue that some small businesses would be forced to cut costs by laying off some workers in order to raise the pay for the rest, or reducing hours and benefits. Such a change could also cause businesses to reduce the human workforce in favor of automation.
Since 2005, Florida’s minimum wage has increased from $6.15 to $8.46. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.
Amendment 3 – Open primaries for state offices
• Vote “yes” to establish a top-two open primary system for state legislators, governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and commissioner of agriculture in Florida.
• Vote “no” to keep the current system with closed primaries for each political party.
Currently, Florida has closed primaries for state office. Only those registered in a political party may vote in that party’s primary. The winners of the primaries go on to compete in the general election.
Amendment 3 would change the way Floridians vote for state offices. All candidates, regardless of political affiliation would be on the same ballot; all voters could participate in the primary; and, the top two candidates (regardless of political affiliation) would advance to the general election. If only two candidates qualified, the primary would be canceled and those two candidates would be on the ballot in the general election.
This would mean two candidates from the same party could be on the ballot in the general election.
All Voters Vote Inc. led the campaign to have this amendment on the Florida ballot. A key argument made by this organization is that nearly a third of Florida voters do not belong to either of the two major political parties.
The amendment is opposed by the Democratic Party of Florida, the Republican Party of Florida, the Green Party of Florida, the Florida AFL-CIO, Florida Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP.
Supporters say the change would attract more moderate candidates, increase voter participation and discourage candidates from catering to the base of their political party.
Opponents say the amendment would undo the current political system, make it harder for minority candidates to win legislative races and lead to suppression of voters from minority communities.
Editor’s note: Part Two of this series will look at Amendments 4, 5 and 6. Some information for this article came from the Florida League of Women Voters.