This post is originally published in Orlando Sentinel.
Florida law is abundantly clear: to vote, you must be an American citizen. Proposed Amendment 1 on this year’s general-election ballot, titled “Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections,” is intended to deceive voters into thinking that this isn’t already the rule. It is a totally unnecessary change to the Constitution — our laws already provide that you need to be a citizen in order to vote.
But this measure is not just harmlessly redundant. If passed, proposed Amendment 1 could be used to keep otherwise eligible voters from casting their ballots. That’s why the ACLU of Florida urges all Florida voters to vote “No” on No. 1.
Florida’s Constitution currently provides that: “Every citizen of the United States who is eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
The proposed amendment would change “Every citizen” to “Only a citizen.”
That may seem like a minor difference, but the change could embolden anti-voting rights elected officials to enact unnecessary and burdensome “papers please” voting requirements, laws that would have no purpose other than to make voting harder for Florida citizens. Any U.S. citizen without the resources to navigate new burdensome requirements could be kept from voting.
This proposed amendment amounts to thinly veiled anti-immigrant and vote suppression rhetoric. Voting by non-citizens is simply not a problem in Florida, and there’s been no effort to give non-citizens the right to vote in our state.
Instead, we’ve seen persistent efforts to suppress voter registration and voting. One of the primary routes such suppression has taken is through requiring increasingly costly verification requirements, such as burdensome voter ID laws.
Requirements like these can disenfranchise the many citizens who do not have ready access to paper documents, like birth certificates, decades-old marriage licenses, or passports that can cost hundreds of dollars.
All over the country, we are seeing officials try to make voting harder by eliminating polling places, cutting early voting days, purging voter rolls and adopting strict voter ID laws. Proposed Amendment 1 is yet another part of that attack on democracy.
Don’t be fooled by an anti-immigrant dog whistle. Don’t let yourself be manipulated by dirty tricks.
Rather than strengthen our democracy or protect our elections, this amendment could weaken citizens' right to vote.
Vote “no” on 1.