New Ballot Initiative Law Challenged in Federal Court


One day after Governor DeSantis signed a bill related to ballot initiatives, a federal lawsuit was filed on Saturday seeking to have the new law ruled invalid.

The new law limits individual contributions to groups promoting ballot initiatives to $3,000. The limit is in effect until the Florida Supreme Court approves the placement of an initiative on the ballot. In Florida, voters can change the constitution by getting proposals approved for the ballot and then receiving over 60-percent of support during an election.

Republicans who supported the legislation, argued it was needed to keep special interest money from influencing the initiatives that voters see on the ballot.

However, Democrats believe the new law was designed to keep policies that are not part of the Republican agenda from becoming law. Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47) said people need the ability to propose constitutional amendments because the Legislature has not responded to the needs of the public on issues.

“What the voters want, we’re not always delivering,”Eskamani said during a debate on the House floor.

The most often cited example of special interest influence on the ballot initiative process relates to trial attorney John Morgan. Morgan donated millions of dollars to support two recent initiatives which voters approved. In 2016 the use of medical marijuana was approved by voters and in 2020 an increase the minimum wage received enough votes to be added to the Florida Constitution.

The ACLU of Florida says collecting petition signatures needed to qualify for the ballot can be an expensive effort. Limiting the dollar amount would “nullify Floridians’ direct democracy rights,” the nonprofit said.

“Florida citizens’ right to participate directly in our democracy is protected by the Constitution, and yet, the Legislature and governor have made it their mission to make it even more difficult for Floridians to enact change,” said Nicholas Warren, staff attorney at the ACLU of Florida, in a news release.

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