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No evidence of ‘chilling effect’ from proposed ‘Keep Our Constitution Clean’ amendment

State budget experts finalized the amendment’s projected cost Friday.

State budget experts found no evidence that Keep Our Constitution Clean’s proposed amendment would have a “chilling effect” on the number of future amendments submitted.

At Friday’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC), the economists confirmed they found no data to back the claim made by the amendment’s proponents last week. The meeting was the final of three conferences the group holds to calculate the cost of proposed constitutional amendments.

George Levesque, who represented Keep Our Constitution Clean at last week’s meeting, suggested requiring amendments pass two ballots may reduce the number of proposals filed, lowering cost estimates. But he admitted that Nevada, the only state to have a similar clause, added the two-ballot requirement in the 1960s, making research difficult.

“It’s entirely possible that the double hurdle that people have to get over may have a chilling effect on amendment behavior,” Levesque said. “We certainly hope that’s one of the byproducts of this because the group that I represent believes that the constitution should not be changed so easily.”

The proposed amendment would require future constitutional amendments pass two public ballots in subsequent elections. If passed in 2020, the double jeopardy clause would first apply to 2022 ballot amendments, which would then reappear on the 2024 ballot.

Also Friday, the FIEC locked in its finding from last week that the amendment would have an unknown, but certainly substantial, impact on the Department of State and county election operations. If applied to the 2018 ballot, when 11 of 12 amendments passed, the printing of ballots alone would cost nearly $1 million.

The proposed change would potentially double the costs of paper ballots for counties like Leon County or lead to a 50% increase for larger counties, said Mark Earley, the county’s election supervisor.

“I don’t want to be gloom and doom, but this is scaring us, frankly,” Earley said.

More ballot questions would lead to more room for human error from auditors. And lengthier ballots would lead to logistical challenges, longer wait times, larger envelopes and more necessary equipment.

“You don’t just go out and go to any local printer. You have to use printers that are very capable of doing this. And if you’re expanding the amount of pages of ballots that everybody has to get printed, that has a dramatic impact … to our vendors that supply these ballots,” Earley said.

In October, a survey found 49% of voters support the possible amendment while 30% oppose it. Constitutional amendments require 60% approval to pass.

As of Friday evening, the proposal has received 456,860 of 766,200 signatures it needs by February to appear on the 2020 ballot.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering the Texas House of Representatives for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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