'Grouped' ballot proposals defended

By News Service of Florida

A key member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Tuesday defended decisions to put multiple issues into single proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the November ballot.

Six of the eight proposed constitutional amendments approved by the commission last month included more than one topic.

As an example, one ballot proposal would ask voters to ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces.

Critics of the commission and some newspaper editorial boards have argued that “grouped” constitutional amendments could confuse voters or force them to choose between issues they like and dislike. But in a letter to editorial boards Tuesday, Brecht Heuchan, chairman of the commission’s Style & Drafting Committee, defended such grouping, which he said also was done by past commissions.

“The ballot language of these proposals is clear and easily understood,” Heuchan said in the letter. “Voters are exceedingly smart and will decide how they want their Florida to look for generations to come. In the end, they alone will be the judge of our work.”

Heuchan said grouping issues also will help limit the length of the ballot.

Combined with proposed constitutional amendments approved by the Legislature and through petition initiatives, the commission’s proposals bring to 13 the number of constitutional measures on the ballot.

“According to election officials, long ballots create a disincentive to voting in the first place,” Heuchan said in the letter. “Grouping some ideas together keeps the ballot from becoming too lengthy to complete. If all of the CRC proposals were left as single amendments, there would be 25 questions on the ballot instead of 13; and in some areas of our state, each of those measures would be translated into multiple languages.”

News Service of Florida