Taxation Commission violated fundamental fairness of voting franchise
Jun 3, 2008
It is just plain wrong to combine disparate concepts in the same constitutional ballot measure. As was so eloquently argued before the Florida Supreme Court in October of 2005 by then State Representative Dudley Goodlette on behalf of then House Speaker Allan Bense:
"The policy underlying this requirement is self—evident. Wherereasonable voters may differ, then the voters should not be placed inthe position of accepting an all—or—nothing grab—bag initiative. Eachdiscrete issue should be placed separately on the ballot so that voterscan exercise their franchise in a meaningful way. No person shouldbe required to vote for something repugnant simply because it isattached to something desirable. Nor should any interest group begiven the power to sweeten the pot by obscuring a divisive issuebehind separate matters about which there is widespread agreement."http://www.law.fsu.edu/library/flsupct/sc05—1754/05—1754inibense.pdf
This well—reasoned policy was blatantly violated two months ago by Florida's Taxation and Budget Reform Commission (TBRC). The Commission put various measures on the November ballot for consideration by Florida voters. Included on the TBRC agenda were two items: one measure that would enshrine private school vouchers in Florida's constitution; and another measure that purportedly would require that 65% of education money be spent in the classroom.
Today a new Quinnipiac poll was released reflecting public opinion on many of those ballot items including the voucher measure and the education funding measure. The poll noted that the notion of putting private school vouchers into Florida's Constitution was wildly unpopular with nearly six out of ten voters opposing it. The same poll noted that the education funding measure was wildly popular with about the same number supporting it.
No problem. The popular measure will pass, and the unpopular voucher measure will fail. Right? Wrong. You see, the TBRC combined the popular measure with the unpopular measure so that citizens will not have the opportunity to exercise their franchise on each issue. In November, Amendment Nine will ask citizens if they want to increase education classroom spending AND enshrine vouchers in Florida's constitution. One vote on two totally disparate measures. Of course most Floridians will not know that by voting for education funding they will also vote for making Florida the first state in the nation to mandate public funding of private education. Here is the way the ballot will appear: http://election.dos.state.fl.us/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/12—10.pdf
But that is exactly why the TBRC did what they did. They wanted the vouchers to pass so they combined it with an empty, but sweet sounding, education funding measure. In fact, the word "voucher" is not even referenced in the measure so Floridians will have no idea what they are voting for. Ironically, the education funding part won't even increase education funding because it doesn't define what is "classroom spending" and most school districts already spend more than 65% in the classroom.
The TBRC leadership will argue that they had the power to combine measures. While I disagree, it's a sorry defense that doesn't make it right. While I recognize that Governor Bush (the invisible hand responsible for the measure) and others may be honestly passionate about school—vouchers, it is less than honest and unbecoming for those given power and a public trust to intentionally try to trick voters. If former Governor Bush believes he is right on the merits and on principle, than he should support putting the measure up for a fair debate and an up or down vote, rather than resorting to chicanery to prevail.
Hopefully, by voting the measure down Florida citizens will right this wrong, unless a Florida court fixes it first.