As if Florida’s outcome in the upcoming election weren’t pivotal enough, political wizards need to factor in an additional and troubling circumstance: Voters in the Sunshine State will have to sift through a 10-page ballot, or more in some counties, and spend as much as 25 minutes reading and trying to understand it.
That’s because in addition to choices for President, Senate, Congress, State and County officials, the Florida ballot will contain questions regarding 11 different amendments to the state constitution.
Voters are being asked to decide on a wide variety of issues, from property tax for veterans and abortion to whether or not to remove the constitutional ban on spending public money on church-related schools and institutions. The lengthy ballot even asks Floridians if it should be legal to park pick-up trucks in driveways.
But lawmakers say that's what direct democracy is all about, even at the cost of serious voter fatigue.
“It’s an effort by the Legislature, the body closest to the people, to ensure that voters have the right to vote on these amendments,” said Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity to The Miami Herald, adding that he was confident most voters will do their homework and will know the amendments before they vote.
Some, however, are not so sure and fear the turnout will be affected by the super-sized ballot. For that reason, county election supervisors are encouraging people to vote early or asking them to request an absentee ballot to avoid bottlenecks at the polls on Election Day – an act of civic duty, by the way, that is costing voters up to $1.50 to mail, given the multi-page ballots in need of heavier envelopes.
Election supervisors are also expecting a high rate of voters overlooking the state ballot questions altogether, and are concerned that by doing so will skip the city or county ballot questions listed below those state questions.
One more thing swelling Florida ballot is, of course, the bilingual factor. Given their voting populations, 13 counties are mandated by federal law to print ballots in both English and Spanish. And the two largest counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, must print ballots in Creole as well as English and Spanish.
Florida is a state where Obama pulls 61 percent Hispanic support compared to 31 percent for Republican Mitt Romney, according to a poll conducted by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice. Twenty-three percent of the population in the state is Hispanic or of Latino origin.
Among all voters, Obama and Romney are essentially tied in Florida, according to a recent Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll and a Marist College survey.