Guest Opinion: Vote NO on Amendment #10

Editor’s note: In our effort to provide balanced opinion on proposed constitutional amendments, we give each side an opportunity to present its side. Today’s No on 10 Amendment will be followed Thursday by a Yes on 10 op-ed. 

Amendment 10 has been characterized as returning the power to voters to determine who will serve as their sheriff, clerk of the court, property appraiser, tax collector and supervisor of elections, by ensuring that all constitutional offices are elected by the voters of their county.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Amendment 10 is not really about returning power to you.  It’s a deceptive ploy to take power AWAY from you. Here’s how…

Like those in most states, Florida’s Constitution provides for a Board of County Commissioners and five constitutional officers in each county.  The constitutional officers operate as relatively autonomous, independent units of government.  This system was brought over by the settlers of our country from England in the 16thcentury, when we had a much simpler, agrarian economy.

But since 1968 Florida’s Constitution has also given the voters in each of our 67 counties and only the county’s voters– not the Legislature, not the County Commission, nor anyone or anything else – the ability to approve a charter form of government, where the structure of the county may be improved to suit local needs if those changes are approved by the local electorate. 

The voters in 20 counties have chosen to approve county charters; likewise, the voters in those counties can chose to amend or repeal their charter. Similarly, the voters in any non-charter county can chose to keep the current form of government and reject charter government.

In terms of the constitutional officers, about half of those 20 charters make little or no changes.  Then some change the way in which a constitutional officer is elected – like providing for a residency requirement, giving the voters the authority to recall an officer for malfeasance, or providing that they are elected on a non-partisan basis.  (Why on earth should the Supervisor of Elections – the chief elections officer in the county – be elected on a partisan basis?)

In a few of the charter counties, the local electorate has decided to make one or more of the constitutional officers “charter officers” where the positions are subject to uniform administrative systems like budget, audit, fleet management and data processing, as a way to improve efficiencies and effectiveness in county government and be better able to deal with the problems confronting 21stcentury Florida.

Amendment 10 forever removes your right to make any changes– big or small – to how the constitutional officers in your county are chosen or what their duties are.  What’s worse, if you live in a charter county where some changes have already been approved by the voters, Amendment 10retroactively repeals those decisions made by the local electorateand takes the county’s structure back to that which existed 50 years ago.  

The Devil’s in the details!  The fact is that the amendment doesn’t return power to you – Amendment 10 takes power away from you and your fellow voters.

Whether you are voting absentee, early or at the polls on November 6th, protect your rights to determine how your government is structured – vote against Amendment 10.