Some initiatives may not make it onto ballot

01/15/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Two of the better known potential Constitutional Amendments that were supposed to be on this November’s ballot are now in jeopardy of not making it there.

The Florida Department of State released revised counts of signatures gathered for half a dozen citizen initiatives hoping to go before voters.

One of them, the proposed ban on same sex marriage, had already qualified for the ballot; now it needs to gather 22,000 more signatures.

Likewise, the Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment will need more than 100,00 more signatures to make it on the ballot; organizers have 17 days to gather them.

The Secretary of State’s office began using a new database system to collect the signatures for the various amendments this year, but acknowledged last week that there was a glitch in the system.

The revision on the number of valid signatures affects the measure to ban same-sex marriage in Florida the hardest. That’s because organizers for the controversial amendment had celebrated last month after they say they received the 611,000 necessary signatures.

But the new count in the Miami-Dade area revealed that they had "double counted" some 27,000 petition signatures, which means they’re now nearly 22,000 signatures short.

Organizations sympathetic to, the group behind the effort to get the gay marriage ban on the ballot, sent out urgent e-mails to supporters today saying they needed to raise $50,000 in the next two days to mail 40,000 petitions to new citizens.

Several other amendment campaigns also fell far short of the necessary amount to make it on the ballot.

The Florida Hometown Democracy group supports a measure that would submit all land use changes to a voter referendum. It is more than 110,000 signatures short, a perhaps insurmountable amount of signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Tallahassee Attorney Ross Burnaham is the co-chairman of the amendment. He says the measure may not qualify for the ballot until 2010.

In addition to problems in counting good signatures, the Hometown Democracy Movement has had to contend with considerable opposition in the form of another group called Floridians for Smarter Growth, that was created to defeat their initiative.

In addition, another group, Save Our Constitution, was formed to legally revoke the signatures of citizens who signed Hometown Democracy Petitions. As of yesterday, the group had 4,700 revocations.

The combined effort of business groups, such as home builders and developers, and the state’s inaction, have in some ways demoralized Hometown Democracy Movement organizer Lesley Blackner.

John Hedrick, the Growth Management and Sprawl chair of the Florida Sierra Club, is so outraged by the developments with the Secretary of State’s office regarding the petitions he is calling for an independent investigation into the Division of Elections office.

Sterling Ivey from the Secretary of State’s office says his office will not give a daily update on the number of verified signatures for each of the proposed amendments at this time. He says that will be taken care of by the 67 county supervisors of election. Only after Feb. 1 will that state update the number of signatures.

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