2018 November Election Guide: County Referendum

Miami-Dade County has five issues on my ballot (some people living in the north-east of the county have a bonus issue about incorporation). I’m for four of them.

County Referendum 1:NO
County Referendum 2:YES
County Referendum 3:YES
County Referendum 4:YES
County Referendum 5:YES.

The hardest issue is County Referendum 1, which would make the election for Clerk of Court into a non-partisan race, like the other current elected offices in the County. Some people may be tempted to vote for this on the grounds of symmetry, consistency, or tidiness, and I get that. But on the merits, I’m not sold. I do not think we have been particularly well-served by the existing supposedly non-partisan system we have for electing the Mayor or indeed the Commissioners. I think voters would have clearer choices if we had primaries and general elections rather than one big election and then a run-off if needed. The downside of the partisan approach is that it lessens the voice of NPAs who do not register with a party, and that’s a real issue. But the proof is in the pudding, and on the whole the pudding hasn’t been tasty or nutritious; indeed, it verges on toxic sometimes. So, unlike many folks I know, I’m voting NO on County Referendum 1.

County Referendum 2 is the second-hardest choice. It changes the current resign-to-run law to allow government civil service employees to run for office without having to quit their job. The new county rule would be equivalent to the existing state rule. That means, for example, that firefighters, police officers, and teachers could run for office without quitting. Supporters say it will open up the pool to people with relevant experience who can’t afford to take the risk of quitting their jobs to run. Opponents say it will give an unfair advantage, almost as subsidy, to ‘insiders’ who are already in government, and that staying on after election could create conflicts of interest. On balance, I’m voting YES on County Referendum 2, because I think asking people to quit a job on the chance they might get elected seems wrong. But again I know people who are going the other way.

County Referendum 3 is a no-brainer. Currently, the county’s lawyers don’t rule on the adequacy of the wording of ordinances proposed to be passed by referendum until after the signatures have been collected. If the lawyers find a problem, all that effort is wasted. This change will have the lawyers do their review at the start of the process rather than at the end. I’m voting YES on County Referendum 3, and really can’t see what the downside could be.

County Referendum 4 formalizes existing practice of dropping a candidate from a race if he or she dies. It could result in some candidates being elected effectively unopposed, since there is no provision for the appointment of a substitute. Nevertheless, I’m voting YES on County Referendum 4, as overall it makes the rules clearer.

County Referendum 5 proposes prohibiting people from paying workers or organizations based on how how many signatures they get for a petition. Importantly, this would NOT prohibit paying petition-gathers as they could still be paid by the hour. It would, however, remove a major incentive for fraudulent actions, since the petition-gather’s wage would no longer be tied to the number of signatures reported. That, despite some ads you hear on the radio, would be a good thing. Vote YES on County Referendum 5.

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