Don’t Know How To Vote on Judges, Constitutional Questions in November? Local Party Picks Are Here!

Chances are, you probably know who you are going to vote for Senate or Governor in the general election a couple of weeks away, on November 8th, 2022. But all of that other stuff at the end of the ballot? Maybe not so much. 

 

The Democrats and Republicans of Okaloosa County have weighed in on all of those judges and amendments on the general election ballot this election day. Not sure how to vote on these (like me). This might be a good place to get started. 

 

As you might have seen, if you have received your sample ballot or early voting ballot – or have seen on the Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Office – there are three constitutional amendments and plenty of judge retention questions on the general election ballot.  

 

So, let’s get you a little more information about these races, and what the local pundits are saying about them.

Amendments

First on the agenda, the three votes on the bottom and back of your ballot. In the state of Florida, proposed amendments can be put in front of the voters by a vote of both houses of the Florida Legislature, a petition drive which gets enough signatures statewide, the constitutional revision commission (which is on the ballot this time around) or by the taxation and budget reform commission. 

 

In order to be passed into law, 60% of voters must approve the amendment. 


A result of the most recent set of proposed amendments that you might have heard about in the news was the amendment which allowed the restoration of civil rights for people convicted of a felony in Florida. That vote passed in 2020 by a margin of 65%-35%.

2022 Amendment #1 - Limitation on assessment of real property used for residential purposes

Amendment #1 proposes that the legislature be allowed to limit the increase of property taxes which would come from making a home or other property more flood resistant. For example, if you have a house on the water and you pay to install a flood wall, this bill would make sure that your property taxes would not go up because of the increased value that the home would accrue thanks to the improvements you made.

Democrats: No

The Democratic Womens’ Club of Okaloosa County opposes all three of the constitutional amendments. In a facebook post, the group says that voters should oppose the measure because “A 2021 Senate staff analysis said the proposed constitutional amendment would reduce local government property-tax revenues by $5.8 million during the 2023-2024 fiscal year, with the amount growing to $25.1 million annually. Furthermore, determining how much flood-related improvements impact home values is highly subjective, especially if such repairs are done as a part of a larger renovation project where the rest of the renovation would be expected to be assessed at a higher property value. It’s a tax break for wealthy developers. We recommend voting “NO” on this amendment and encourage the Legislature to give homeowners financial incentives to make their structures more resistant.”

Republicans: No Opinion

The Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee announced on its webpage that the first amendment on your ballot is “Legislative in nature and you can decide”.

Floods that result from hurricanes like Hurricane Ian will become more common because of climate change. Supporters of the first amendment say that the limited assessments would allow people to prepare for adverse affects without hurting their pocketbooks. Opponents say the amendment is a tax break for developers.

2022 Amendment #2 - Abolishing the Constitutional Revision Commission.

As a part of the Florida Constitution of 1968, Florida became the only state in the country which has a Constitutional Revision Commission. The Commission, made up of appointees of various elected officials, meets every 20 years and proposes amendments to the constitution which ⅗ of voters must approve to be made law. The proposal to scrap the commission was passed by a joint resolution of the Florida legislature, which is controlled by Republicans.

Democrats: No

The Okaloosa County Democratic Party and the Okaloosa County Democratic Women’s Club oppose on another on the second amendment on the ballot in November, 2022. The Okaloosa County Democratic Party Website only says that voters should vote ‘no’. The Women’s Club’s answer was a little more expansive. According to the club, “[The Club] recommend[s] voting ‘NO’ on this amendment and encouraging the legislature to amend the process to avoid bundling and ensure bipartisan representation of its members. 

 

For reference, ‘bundling’ is the process that the commission uses in order to wrap several items, which may or may not be related’ into a single vote. In 2018, for example, the commission bundled a measure which dealt with vaping in Florida with offshore oil drilling. So, if you were for banning vaping, but against banning drilling (or vice-versa) the vote left you in a pickle.

Republicans: Yes

The Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee asked its members in an email to vote to end the Constitutional Revision Committee.

Former Florida State Senate President and father of US Congressman Matt Gaetz, Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) sat on the most recent Constitutional Revision Commission

2022 Amendment #3 - Additional Homestead Exemption for Certain Workers

The third constitutional amendment would grant an additional $50,000 homestead exemption for people with certain job descriptions. These include:

  • Teachers
  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Correctional Officers
  • Firefighters
  • EMTs and Paramedics
  • Child Welfare Services Professionals
  • Active Duty Military Members
  • Florida National Guard Members
 

The amendment, if passed by 60% of voters, would take place on January 1st, 2023. This would save each household with this exemption about $700 per year on a home worth about $400,000 per year. 

Democrats: No

Okaloosa County Democrats ask that voters vote against this amendment, because “There is a loss of local government revenue through property taxes, which means there will be increased property tax rates for everyone else or cutting services.” The Democrats of Okaloosa County added that “It is difficult to single out professions who are “worthy enough” for special taxing considerations. What about clinic nurses? Daycare providers? Farmers? Garbage Collectors? What happens if someone in the targeted professions quits? How do you make sure they are no longer getting the tax break that they no longer “deserve?” We Recommend voting “NO” on this amendment. If state legislators are want to help public service employees and other first responders, we recommend paying them more and focusing efforts on increasing the availability of affordable housing to them.”

Republicans: No Opinion

The Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee did not make a recommendation on this amendment, saying that the amendment was “Legislative in nature and you can decide.”

Florida Supreme Court Justices and DCA First District Judges

Florida Supreme Court

In Florida, Justices are appointed by the governor with the assistance of a commission with a majority of the members selected by the governor. Nine other states use this method as well. 

Once they are appointed, the justices stand for retention every six years. This means voters basically decide whether or not to boot them off the bench. Should a justice get the boot by receiving less than 50% yes votes in a retention vote, the governor is able to work with his committee to select a new justice to appoint. 

 

Neither party went too in-depth as to why voters should vote one way or the other, but they mirrored each other in their recommendations. The Okaloosa County Republicans recommended retaining all judges except Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga. They said that, “three are appointed by (former Republican and Governor of Florida – and current Democratic Candidate for Governor) Charlie Christ, but only one is bad.” The bad one being Justice Labarga, according to the local party.

 

As you might have guessed, the Democratic Women’s Club and the Okaloosa Democrats argued that all but one of the Justices (Labarga) be shown the door on the Florida Supreme Court.

District Court of Appeals, First District

As you get down to the lower courts, the Democrats and Republicans get a little closer together (I.E., not polar opposites on every court appointment.) The Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee recommended retaining all of the judges on the first DCA, while the democrats favored keeping two of the five on board. Like the Supreme Court, Republican governors appointed all five of the justices currently serving.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga is up for retention this year,

Quick Voter Guide Reference

✅ = In favor of 

❌ = Opposed to 

🤷‍♂️ = No opinion or mixed opinion given



 

Democrats

Republicans

District Court of Appeals

  

Bilbrey

Kelsey

Long

Rowe

Winkour

Florida Supreme Court

  

Charles T. Canady

John D. Couriel

Jamie Grosshans

Jorge Labarga

Ricky Polston

Constitutional Amendments

  

Amendment 1

🤷‍♂️

Amendment 2

🤷‍♂️

Amendment 3

🤷‍♂️

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