Voting Guide

Miami-Dade county provides a service that allows you to see what your ballot looks like. Given our crazy-quilt administrative structure, and the plethora of ballot initiatives, local races, and local ballot questions, this is almost a necessity.

Here's some voting advice on the more generic items on the local ballot. The most exciting stuff is down-ballot, so be sure and read that part.

Senate: This is hard. If Charlie Crist could squeeze out Kendrick Meek, there might be a case for voting for the utterly unprincipled Crist in order to keep out the evil-principled Marco Rubio. But the squeeze, although it is happening, doesn't look like it is big enough (yet). Meek has a fervent Democratic base, and both Meek and Crist played chicken too long, attacking each other in the hopes one would break and start attacking Rubio.

I think I'm going to vote Meek, because only a near-certainty that it might hold off Rubio could persuade me to vote for Crist. But this is why I'm not voting early.

Congress (FL-18): Another tough choice. The Democratic candidate Rolando A. Banciella seems pretty unattractive to me. For example he believes “Social Security is not bankrupt, it is just mismanaged.” It is not bankrupt, true, but it's also one of the best managed agencies in government. He has promoted views on various local issues that have nothing to do with Congress. He believes in term limits for Congress. On the plus side he opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and would bring the troops home.

The incumbent, Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, is a hard-core Republican on pretty much everything except gay rights. She's a leader in the pro-Cuba embargo brigade, and Cuban revanchism generally.

I'm either not going to vote in this one, or vote for Banciella. It doesn't matter. He won't win.

(Of course if you live in FL-25 vote for Joe Garcia! And if you live FL-22 vote for Ron Klein. Both are good candidates running against bad people.)

Governor: Alex Sink is not my kind of Democrat. She's pretty far to the right of the Democratic party. She's sorta boring. But her opponent, mega-millionaire Rick Scott would be a total disaster. Vote for Sink and pray she wins (polls are very close on this one).

Attorney General: Dan Gelber would be a great Attorney General. Pam Bondi would make the Tea Party very happy. She's ahead.

Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Scott Maddox wants to make something of the job. He's trailing in the polls, but would be the best choice.

State Representative District 111. Incumbent Erik Fresen has voted with the bad guys in Tallahassee. Challenger Cristina Albright has run a spirited campaign and deserves your vote.

Non-partisan Judicial Retention Elections. Three Justices of the Florida Supreme Court and two Judges of the 3rd DCA face retention elections. They all deserve a “YES” vote to retain them.

State Constitutional Amendments

Amendment One

Repeal of Public Campaign Financing Requirement.

Proposing the repeal of the provision in the state constitution that requires public financing of campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.

VOTE NO.

A Yes vote here is a vote for more millionaires and billionaires running for office, as no one will have a hope of answering their domination of the airwaves. No thanks.

Amendment Two

Homestead Ad Valorem Tax Credit For Deployed Military Personnel

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require the Legislature to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption by law for members of the United States military or military reserves, the United States Coast Guard or its reserves, or the Florida National Guard who receive a homestead exemption and were deployed in the previous year on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The exempt amount will be based upon the number of days in the previous calendar year that the person was deployed on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The amendment is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011

Vote how you like. This is a perfectly sensible policy idea, but one that has no place in the state constitution. I'm guessing it will pass. I'll probably vote against it on the grounds that state constitutions shouldn't be cluttered with stuff like this, although I'd certainly support it if it were legislation.

Amendment Four

Referenda Required For Adoption And Amendment Of Local Government Comprehensive Land Use Plans

Establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body and notice. Provides definitions.

The amendment’s impact on local government expenditures cannot be estimated precisely. Local governments will incur additional costs due to the requirement to conduct referenda in order to adopt comprehensive plans or amendments thereto. The amount of such costs depends upon the frequency, timing and method of the referenda, and includes the costs of ballot preparation, election administration, and associated expenses. The impact on state government expenditures will be insignificant.

Amendment Four has probably generated the most heat. Developers are fervently against it, and have predicted that the world as we know it will end if it passes. In particular, they argue (almost but not quite entirely unconvincingly) that it will create too many obstacles to even routine projects.

Supporters argue, much more convincingly, that too many localities are allowing too much development against the wishes of local citizens because developers are major campaign contributors. Certainly here in South Florida, that pretty much describes the situation. So if we're to have an Everglades, or any sensible development strategy, vote YES on Amendment 4. You can read more about why to vote yes at Eye on Miami.

Amendments Five and Six

Amendments Five and Six go together. They are about banning the pervasive gerrymandering that has turned a more or less 50/50 state into one with a permanent partisan majority. I think they may be the most important state constitutional amendments ever to go on the Florida ballot — certainly the most important since I moved here in 1992.

Amendment Five

Standards For Legislature To Follow In Legislative Redistricting

Legislative districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.

The fiscal impact cannot be determined precisely. State government and state courts may incur additional costs if litigation increases beyond the number or complexity of cases which would have occurred in the amendment’s absence.

Amendment Six

Standards For Legislature To Follow In Congressional Redistricting

Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.

The fiscal impact cannot be determined precisely. State government and state courts may incur additional costs if litigation increases beyond the number or complexity of cases which would have occurred in the amendment’s absence.

Gerrymandering has thoroughly undermined the representative nature of state government. These Amendments seek no less than to restore representative democracy to the State of Florida.

VOTE YES ON AMENDMENTS 5 & 6.

Amendment Eight

Revision Of The Class Size Requirements For Public Schools

The Florida Constitution currently limits the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms in the following grade groupings: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 18 students; for grades 4 through 8, 22 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 25 students. Under this amendment, the current limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms would become limits on the average number of students assigned per class to each teacher, by specified grade grouping, in each public school. This amendment also adopts new limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in an individual classroom as follows: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 21 students; for grades 4 through 8, 27 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 30 students. This amendment specifies that class size limits do not apply to virtual classes, requires the Legislature to provide sufficient funds to maintain the average number of students required by this amendment, and schedules these revisions to take effect upon approval by the electors of this state and to operate retroactively to the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

The Florida Legislature is not committed to public education. (See Gerrymandering above.) A few years ago the voters of Florida passed a class-size amendment designed to force the state to fund enough classrooms and teachers to keep class size down to a manageable size. The Republican establishment hated this, and has fought tooth and nail, year after year, to get out from the obligation to actually pay for schooling for people who can't afford private schools. Jeb Bush tried and tried to undermine it (see Democracy Be Damned: Fla Pols Won't Fund Small Classes for example).

Now the budget crunch seems to provide a chance to knock a piece of the stuffing out the proposal. Instead of capping class size, why not cap the average class size? Then a small AP class of ten can be balanced against that unfortunate general English class with fifty.

This amendment is really about just one thing: cutting state funding for education. Don't fall for it. VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 8.

Non-binding Resolution on Balancing the Federal Budget

A Nonbinding Referendum Calling for an Amendment to the United States Constitution

In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the Federal Government, which threatens our economy and national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes?

I have no idea how this even got on the ballot — I didn't know we could have non-binding resolutions in Florida. In any case, this is a brain-dead idea in multiple ways.

To take the simplest, if the US is involved in a war, Congress shouldn't be allowed either to raise or borrow money to defend us? So much for winning WW II.

Or if there's a second Great Depression, Congress shouldn't borrow the money to put the nation back to work, but just let people starve?

VOTE NO on this piece of agitprop.

Home Rule Charter Amendment

Home Rule Charter Amendment Regarding County Commissioner and Administrative Staff Communications

Shall the Charter be amended to allow the County Commissioners to communicate with and ask questions of the County administrative services to assist with the performance of their duties as County Commissioners by removing the Charter requirement that Commissioners shall deal with the administrative service solely through the County Mayor or his or her designee?

I feel least well informed about this one. The Herald thinks it's a bad idea, and so — emphatically — do the very sharp folks at Eye On Miami. In Voter Alert! Vote NO on the local Miami Dade Charter Amendment. By Geniusofdespair they write:

Keeping the commissioners from talking directly to staff is a GOOD thing. They tend to browbeat staff … . The Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter affords staff a little protection by requiring the commissioners to communicate through the Mayor's office. This amendment is a commission POWER GRAB trying to gut the charter provision!!

OK, I'm convinced: Vote NO on the Charter Amendment

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12 Responses to Voting Guide

  1. Allison says:

    Your info about Amendments 5 & 6 is spot on!! They are the most important initiatives on the ballot. Only thing you left out is that the Chair of FairDistrictsFlorida (the YES on 5 & 6 campaign) is a UM LAW alum who started this project from her kitchen table with merely a cell phone & a rolodex.

  2. Buzz says:

    I appreciate this information. You’ve helped me vote tonight. Thanks.

  3. Ross says:

    The Millionaires.are the ones who want amendment 1 to not go through actually.
    Most of the public money flows to the top candidates. More than $7 million of the public financing distributed in 2006 went to four heavyweight candidates for governor, who raised a total of $44 million on their own.
    Republican Charlie Crist raised more than $20 million in private contributions and led all candidates by receiving $3.3 million in public money.
    Public financing, however, does not seem to have provided a major boost in recent years for lower-tier Republican or Democratic candidates trying to run campaigns in such a large state that crosses many media markets. And no Florida candidate affiliated with a minor party has ever received a dime of public money even though they don’t face the extra hurdles written into Connecticut

  4. michael says:

    There’s no doubt that with this Supreme Court money has a huge advantage in politics even with a limited public financing option. I do think, though, that passing Amendment 1 would only make it worse.

  5. Ross says:

    You may be right. Many Amendments sound very well and good until you search around for what actually happens when in affect(sure you’re aware). It is a shame that those who benefit most are the ones already on top.I hope our two party system will not rule out the progression of leaders better suited for office.

  6. Adam says:

    You could have shortened this whole post by saying: Voter guide. Vote Democrat.

  7. michael says:

    Since the first line is about voting for a non-Democrat, that’s just silly.

    And anyway, I’m pretty sure that most people read this for the down-ballot stuff, like the Constitutional amendments.

  8. Chris says:

    I really like your blog, and particularly, your take on the Florida elections. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have just one comment, and it’s a VERY minor one. Towards the end of your post, you wrote that you felt “least well informed” about something, when you could have just said that you felt “least informed” or, maybe, “poorly informed.”

    See, I told you it was a very minor point. But when our grammar fails, the Tea Partiers win!

    Just kidding. :-)

  9. Chris says:

    I really like your blog, and particularly, your take on the Florida elections. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have just one comment, and it’s a VERY minor one. Towards the end of your post, you wrote that you felt “least well informed” about something, when you could have just said that you felt “least informed” or, maybe, “poorly informed.”

    See, I told you it was a very minor point. But when our grammar fails, the Tea Partiers win!

    Just kidding. :-)

  10. Monique says:

    Michael, you write RE Amendment #8 that an AP class of ten can be balanced out with a general English class with 50 kids, but the amendment specifically sets a limit on each class size along with limits on averages. How could a class have 50 — or am I reading this incorrectly? (I know, I know, it’s nearly too late on this but I’ve waited until the last day to do my research, and found your comments).

  11. Monique says:

    Michael, you write RE Amendment #8 that an AP class of ten can be balanced out with a general English class with 50 kids, but the amendment specifically sets a limit on each class size along with limits on averages. How could a class have 50 — or am I reading this incorrectly? (I know, I know, it’s nearly too late on this but I’ve waited until the last day to do my research, and found your comments).

    [I’m clicking twice — I got a “timed out” message. SORRY!!!]

  12. Adam says:

    Oh, Mike, sorry about that. Let me try again. . . . You could have shortened this whole post by saying: Voter guide. Don’t vote Republican.

    Better?

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