State Rep. Alex Andrade is calling for Florida’s election officials and law enforcement to investigate reported constitutional amendment petition violations.
In a letter sent Friday to Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, the Pensacola Republican alleged that 30-day turn-in requirements were violated. Additionally, he said petition collectors have not registered with the Secretary of State, Laurel Lee.
“Today, I am calling on Florida’s elections supervisors to ensure that the petitions they receive are meeting the requirements of HB 5 and for our sheriffs across the State to investigate these illegal practices,” Andrade said.
This year, the Legislature passed constitutional amendment ballot measures, including the protections Andrade said, were violated.
“HB 5 was deigned to protect Floridians from manipulation by special interest groups and partisan millionaires from other states, who desire to alter Florida’s Constitution,” Andrade said.
Failing to turn in a petition signature within 30 days is subject to a $50 fine, or $250 if found to be intentional. Not returning a petition at all carries a $500 penalty, or $1,000 if found intentional. The fines apply to each petition form returned late.
“If proven, these violations constitute activity subject to criminal prosecution,” Andrade said. “It appears as though these out of state groups are willfully breaking the law in an effort to defraud Florida voters and abuse our citizen initiative process for their own gain.”
Changes to the Florida Constitution may be proposed through voter initiatives, the Legislature, the Constitution Revision Commission, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, or a constitutional convention. Most proposed amendments require approval by 60% of voters, but new taxes and fees only require a two-thirds majority.
“I take these reports very seriously and will do everything in my power to ensure the voters are protected from any attempted illegal actions, voter manipulation, and fraudulent activities,” Andrade said.
The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office responded: “We will review the request Rep. Andrade sent,” Morgan said. “And we will consult with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office in order to ensure the integrity of the electoral process is maintained.”