Your Guide to Understanding Florida’s 2018 Ballot Amendments

Voting for the first time sounds terrifyingly exhilarating. You have done all your research on your candidates, you have mapped out your polling precinct, and you have figured out which time in your schedule would be perfect for voting. You seem to have everything prepared. You grab your ballot, pick your candidates and slowly gaze down to see the amendments you know nothing about. They look and sound confusing, and you end up voting yes to inhumane dog racing and taking people’s rights away. Here is the guideline you need to add to your pre-voting prep to avoid that.

Amendment One: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption

This amendment is not a very relevant one to us college students right now. However, the key word here is “now” because when we become homeowners in a few short years, this will be relevant to us. The amendment will grant an additional $25,000 exemption for any home worth over $125,000. Any home worth in between $100,000 to $124,999 will also receive an exemption.

Vote Yes:

Homeowners could deduct $25,000 more from the taxable value of their home if it is worth more than $10,000. This really does not affect us just yet, but it could help us in the future when we own homes. Homestead exemptions lower property taxes, which are beneficial for all.

No strong support groups are known.

Vote No:

This could result in cuts or increased prices of public services. Many of us pay taxes in our jobs, and if services are more expensive, despite the fact we are not homeowners, this could mean smaller paychecks. According to the Florida Association of Counties, it could also cost Florida more than $687,000,000 yearly starting in 2019.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida Association of Counties and Progress Florida oppose this amendment.

Amendment Two: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments

Like amendment one, this amendment will help us a lot in our futures. Instead of homestead exemptions, amendment two focuses more on property taxes and how they can either benefit or hurt us in the future.

Vote Yes:

If you support this amendment, you like the idea of a solidified property tax set at 10 percent on annual increases for residential and commercial real estate. At the same time, however, voting yes refuses to give over tax revenue to local governments.

Supporters include the Florida Association of Realtors and Florida TaxWatch.

Vote No:

Voting no means nothing will change. Tax values will no longer be limited, which means higher tax bills for non-homestead property. That means people living in apartments will have to pay more.

The main opponent of this is the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Amendment Three: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

Gambling is currently regulated and controlled by legislature. This amendment seeks to put the power back into the people by making it law that any changes to the gambling system must be approved by voters first. This could give our age group more political power. If we do or do not want a new regulation to the industry, we can either vote for or against it rather than having our representatives do it. Political power for our age group is essential if we want to make a change. So, it is not relevant to an aspect of our college lives but rather who we are as an age group.

Vote Yes:

A vote for this amendment would require the voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment that could allow for any new Florida casinos and consequently gambling. The legislature would still control any non-casino gambling.

Disney Worldwide Services, Seminole Tribe of Florida, League of Women Voters and Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association support this amendment.

Vote No:

Casino gambling is still authorized, regulated and monitored by the legislature. Nothing changes too drastically; Everything just remains the same concerning gambling.

FanDuel opposes this amendment.

Amendment Four: Voting Restoration Amendment

Perhaps the most popular amendment on the ballot, this amendment aims to change lives and allow people to vote more easily. Amendment four is all about restoring the right to vote for ex-convicts who did not commit a sex-based crime or murder. This matters to college students because of the closeness it may have to some students. Perhaps a family member or friend has gone to prison for reasons other than a sexual crime or murder. They feel as though they have paid their debt to society and are ready to become a citizen again.

Vote Yes:

Voting yes for amendment four means you will help restore the voting rights of approximately 1.4 million voters. These felons have already served their sentence, so they are not current convicts. This is restoring former prisoners’ right to vote. According to the Governor’s Clemency Board, this amendment could also lower recidivism rates by 30 percent.

Supporters include Florida’s National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters of Florida, ACLU and Floridian’s for a Fair Democracy.

Vote No:

Voting no for amendment four means you support the current process of voter restoration. This will by no means have an effect on people who were not convicted of a crime.

The main group opposing this amendment is Floridians for a Sensible Voting Rights Policy.

Amendment Five: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

This one is similar to amendment seven because it requires a supermajority. In this instance, the supermajority is defined as a required ⅔ of legislators to approve of any new increased taxes or fees.

Vote Yes:

Voting yes is straightforward with this amendment. It allows for a supermajority vote, rather than the current simple one there is now.

Supporters include Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Vote No:

If you decide to vote no on this amendment, you are okay with a simple majority vote and are okay with the current system in place.

Opponents include Florida Policy Institute, Florida Education Association and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Amendment Six: Rights of Crime Victims

This amendment aims to protect victims’ rights, increase the retirement age for judges to 75 and force courts and judges to interpret laws and rules by themselves. This amendment could directly affect students, as it aims to expand victims’ rights. College students go through numerous legal situations where they need to be protected by the law. This may range from shady business practices from landlords to sexual assault. Students need to feel protected.

Vote Yes:

If you support this amendment, you support new time limits to file appeals, a new requirement that judges must serve until they are 75 and a new ban against courts using outsiders when interpreting information.

Marsy’s Law for Florida, Florida Smart Justice and 37 sheriffs support this amendment.

Vote No:

If you oppose this amendment, you want to keep the existing victims’ rights, which also protect rights of the accused and keep the mandatory judge retirement age at 70.

ACLU of Florida, League of Women Voters of Florida and Southern Poverty Law don’t support this amendment.

Amendment Seven: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities

This amendment directly affects college students, as a big portion of it relates to college fees. This amendment will require a supermajority of a college board and the state’s Board of Governor. A supermajority in this context is defined to be roughly 69 percent of the college board to agree and 71 percent of the Board of Governors’ to agree.

Vote Yes:

Supporting this amendment means you will support a supermajority vote for increased college fees and a requirement of death benefits for first responders and military members.

The head support of this amendment is the Association of Florida Colleges

Vote No:

This would continue a simple majority vote for college boards and allow businesses and the military to choose whether they provide death benefits for first responders and military members.

Opponents include the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Education Association.

Amendment Eight:

Do not worry about amendment eight. Due to its complexity, it was scratched from the ballot. You will not have the opportunity to vote for or against it.

Amendment Nine: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces

This amendment is definitely the strangest of the bunch. It groups the banning of offshore drilling with the banning of vaping in indoor places. The two have no relevance to each other, and yet, they are lumped together. This is relatable to the students because of the vaping aspect, but whether you want to be able to legally vape in classrooms or dorms is up to you and your vote.

Vote Yes:

The name of this amendment is pretty clear on what it will do. It will ban offshore drilling, which does help the environment significantly and prevent incidents like the BP Oil Spill in 2010 from occurring. However, it does ban vaping in indoor facilities.

Supporters of this amendment include the Florida Wildlife Federation, Gulf Restoration Network and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Vote No:

Basically the opposite of what the amendment’s name proposes. Offshore oil and gas drilling will continue, and vaping will still be legal in indoor areas. By voting no, there is a potential for environmental and consequently economic consequences.

Opposers of this amendment include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Petroleum Council and Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.

Amendment Ten: State and Local Government Structure and Operation

Amendment ten really does not involve college students. I tried making a connection, but really there is nothing unless you want to go into the political world. You should not leave any amendment blank, regardless of your lack of connection to the amendment, because although it may not affect you, it could affect someone you know.

Vote Yes:

Voting yes means you want the state legislature to host their first meeting starting on the second Tuesday of each January in even-numbered years. So, in 2020, 2022, 2024… they will meet on the second Tuesday of the new year. Also, you want an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism as well as a requirement that all Florida counties have certain elected positions.

Supporters of this amendment include 66 elected sheriffs in the state of Florida as well as most Tax Collectors, Clerk of the Courts and Property Appraisers

Vote No:

You probably do not want the charter counties to lose any power. If this amendment gets passed, charter counties (almost every heavily-populated county) will lose a lot of power and control over who they need to hire.

The main opponent of this amendment is the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Amendment Eleven: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes

College students as a whole may not find relatability to this amendment, but students of parents who are not citizens should definitely care. This amendment allows non-citizens to buy, sell and own property. It also deletes obsolete language from legislature.

Vote Yes:

Voting yes would permit non-citizens to buy, sell and own property as well delete a lot of obsolete and unnecessary language from the legislature. Some of it is outdated, and the laws attached to it are now invalid yet the language still exists.

Supporters include the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Vote No:

Voting no would continue to allow the legislature to make laws concerning property rights and non-citizens. This would also keep language in Florida’s Constitution.

No strong opponents are known.

Amendment Twelve: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

Lobbying has been a symbol of democracy ever since democracy started. People have been advocating for their respective causes for centuries. This amendment focuses on lobbying and improving the conditions of it to make it more fair and equal.

Vote Yes:

By voting yes, you do not want government officials to lobby for their paychecks while in office and for six years after they leave office. You also want to limit the amount of lobbying that government officials can do while in office.

The main supporters of this amendment are Integrity Florida, Common Cause and Florida Policy Institute.

Vote No:

By voting no, you are okay with the current conditions of lobbyists and the lobbying system for government official’s pay.

The main opposer to this amendment is the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Amendment Thirteen: Ends Dog Racing

A topic that is not brought up too often in the United States is definitely dog racing. It is somewhat of a dying industry, but it still exists. In fact, back at my home in West Palm Beach, Florida, there is a dog-racing stadium that is often used for political events. It still is an industry, despite many people opposing it.

Vote Yes:

If you want to support your fuzzy friends, vote yes for this amendment. This is the one amendment I will share my personal opinion on, as I am a huge animal lover. This amendment will ban wagering on dog racing, an abusive and disgusting sport. These nasty places can still operate with this amendment as casinos but without any abuse of any sweet pupper.

Supporters for this amendment include me, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Grey 2K USA.

Vote No:

Voting no means you are okay with wagering on dog races and you support the industry. I could go on a long rant here about why that is wrong, but I will spare you. Also, the Florida government will keep roughly $1 million in taxes within its system.

Opponents include the Florida Greyhound Association (no surprise there) and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

How ever you choose to vote, remember it is always important to do research on everything and everyone on your ballot. The language is meant to trick you, just like a nasty stats exam. I wish you luck on your journey to being an educated voter for this election and every election after!