Longest Florida ballot in decades means it's time to study up

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Elections are coming up and with 13 amendments on the ballot statewide, the Supervisor of Elections wants you to do your research.

The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, Bob Graham Center for Public Service and Santa Fe College Office of Civic Engagement and Service ran eight different voter registration locations today, preparing for the longest ballot in decades. On top of senate, congressional, gubernatorial, and local races, now more than ever, voters really need to understand what boxes their filling in.

Dalia Figueredo, 22, considers herself a seasoned voter.

"It starts when you're young," the UF student said. "That's how you stay involved as a citizen for the rest of your life."

This time around, she's making sure she's not the only one.

"I think there are lots of issues on the ballot right now that will affect me and my generation for years to come you know," Figueredo said.

With 13 amendments statewide, ranging from felons' rights to casino gambling, it's easy to get lost in all the issues.

"It's very important that voters know what they're going to do ahead of time," Communications Director for the Bob Graham Center Shelby Taylor said.

On top of that, of the eight ballot initiatives, six are bundles.

"Meaning you're voting on more than one proposition every time you vote yes or no," Taylor said.

With Amendment 9, for example, voters will be deciding whether to prohibit oil drilling in Florida waters and whether prohibit vaping at indoor workplaces, with just one vote yes or no.

If that's too much to take in, don't worry. You have time.

The Supervisor of Elections says voting by mail will give you the chance to think things over and avoid long wait times.

Volunteers like Dalia will tell you, now's the time to do your homework.

"No matter how much you think something is not related to you it will affect you in your life in some way either directly or indirectly," Figueredo said. "So it's always safe to vote."

Depending on where you live in Alachua County, you could be voting on up to four more amendments. Those include decisions on GRU governance, public school funding and moving local elections to the fall.

The deadline to register or make changes to your registration is July 30 if you want to vote in the August 28 primary. The ballot proposals will be on the November general election ballot.

For a complete ballot breakdown, non-partisan information is available at the Bob Graham Center (http://www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu/content/2018-amendmentsreferendums) and Alachua County Supervisor of Elections (https://www.votealachua.com/AmendmentsandReferendums).

2018 Election Statewide Amendment Breakdown (according to the League of Women Voters):
Amendment 1 - Grants an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for homes worth $125,000 or more.
Amendment 2 - Makes permanent what currently is a temporary cap of 10 percent on annual property value increases for vacation homes, apartments and commercial property, effectively limiting increases on tax bills.
Amendment 3 - Requires approval of any new casino gambling through a citizen-initiative constitutional amendment, effectively barring the Legislature from making those gambling decisions by passing laws.
Amendment 4 - Restores the voting rights of felons after they’ve completed their sentences, except for those convicted of murder or sex offenses.
Amendment 5 - Requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to approve any new or increased taxes or fees, rather than a simple majority.
Amendment 6 - Vastly expands the scope of victims rights under the state Constitution; increases the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75; forces courts and judges to interpret laws and rules for themselves rather than rely on interpretations by government agencies.
Amendment 7 - Creates a supermajority requirement for universities to impose new or increase existing student fees; enshrines in the Constitution guidelines for the State College System; mandates that employers or the state pay a death benefit to first responders and members of the military killed in the line of duty.
Amendment 8 - Mandates term limits of eight years for all Florida school boards; allows the state to create public schools, something only local school boards currently can do; and requires schools to teach “civic literacy.”
Amendment 9 - Prohibits oil drilling beneath waters controlled by Florida; prohibits the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, at indoor workplaces.
Amendment 10 - Requires the Legislature to hold its session in early January on even-numbered years; creates an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; mandates the existence of a state Department of Veterans’ Affairs; forces all counties to elect a sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and Clerk of Circuit Court.
Amendment 11 - Repeals the state’s ability to prohibit non-citizens from buying, owning and selling property; deletes a provision that forces the state to prosecute criminal suspects under the law they were originally charged under, even if the Legislature changes that law; deletes obsolete language having to do with high-speed rail in Florida.
Amendment 12 - Expands ethics rules for elected officials and government employees, notably by expanding from two to six years the time that many officials would have to wait before they could lobby state government.
Amendment 13 - Bans wagering on any type of dog racing, notably greyhounds, as of Dec. 31, 2020, while continuing to allow dog tracks to continue offering other types of gambling, including poker rooms.