You’ve got to admire the Florida Legislature for its creativity in inventing ways to circumvent democracy and minimize the power of the people’s vote.

Voters should not be fooled by the Legislature’s latest con – proposed constitutional Amendment #3.  It is a pernicious proposal “requiring” that a lame-duck Governor, rather than the newly-elected Governor, fill judicial vacancies.

It should be soundly defeated.

The Florida Legislature is so afraid of the threat to its power by the voice of the people that it has tried to make it more difficult to register to vote; less convenient to vote by cutting early voting days and hours; and less likely that your vote will be counted by requiring that your entire ballot be tossed if it is submitted in the wrong precinct.  They have diminished the power of your vote by gerrymandering legislative and congressional districts, and they have maintained a Jim Crow system of disfranchisement that takes the right to vote away from more people than any other state.

And now they serve up proposed Amendment #3 to rob your vote of having a critical effect.

Their proposal would create an anti-democratic system in which a new Governor, just elected by a vote of the people, would be stripped of the power to appoint appellate and Supreme Court judges whose term expires on the day the new Governor is sworn in to office.

Appointing judges is among the most important powers of a Governor.  But our Legislature wants to strip the power to appoint judges to the District Courts of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court from a newly-elected Governor.  Amendment #3 would transfer the power to appoint replacements for those judges who are not eligible for merit retention to the Governor who was is term limited or who was just rejected for re-election by the people.  And there’s no way to hold a Governor with one foot out the door accountable to the people for any decisions, including the quality of appointed judges!

The politicians in Tallahassee are calculating the short-term partisan advantage in this (and most everything else!), but a constitutional amendment is forever.

People vote for a Governor for all sorts of reasons, including the candidate’s judicial philosophy and the kinds of judges the candidate may appoint to the state’s highest courts. But if Amendment #3 passes, not only will the power of a newly elected Governor that will be diminished, the legislature will also succeed in taking the power to decide who will select Florida’s next judges from voters -- for decades to come.

Floridians must reject the legislature’s proposal to strip the power to appoint judges from the newly-elected Governor and give that power to an unaccountable lame-duck Governor.


This post appeared as an op-ed in multiple Florida newspapers.