Deciphering Florida's proposed 2012 ballot initiatives - part 2

09/30/12 Lisa Marzilli
Last Call Friday

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On today's Last Call we continued with our analysis of the proposed constitutional amendments that will be facing voters in just a few weeks. Our focus today included Amendments 1, 3, 5 and 12 which deal with the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, state government revenue caps, the balance of power between the legislature and judiciary and student body representation on the Board of Governors.

Our guest was Tampa Tribune editor Tom Arthur, formerly with the Collins Center for Public Policy. He researched and wrote the non-partisan amendment content you’ll find on their website.

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Voter Education

Florida voters and the general public can find in-depth objective analysis of the proposed constitutional amendments at www.ConRevFlorida.org. In addition, the site features loads of content on important Florida government and election issues such as redistricting, voter reform, and term limits. There are thousands of related news articles and links to state and national political and election web sites you can search. You can even register to vote online.

Not voting is no more a "yes" than a "no"!

To abstain from voting on an amendment is no more equivalent to voting "yes" than it is equivalent to voting "no." Just because you can make up a scenario where an abstention results in a failure to pass doesn't make the assertion that not voting is equivalent to voting "no" true in general. In fact, the situation is perfectly symetric. If 59 of 100 people vote "yes" and 40 vote "no" and one person who would have voted "yes" abstains, not voting on the part of that non-voter is the equivalent, in this narrow case, of voting "no." In votes that are not decisive, not voting has no influence at all. That Florida requires that an amendment obtain a 60% majority in favor to pass has no influence on equivalence. It would be the same for any percentage. It does nean, though, that a "no" is more powerful than a "yes" since the "Yeses" need to obtain one-and-a-half "yes" votes to counteract each "no." In the interest of truth and numeracy, you owe your listeners this correction: Not voting is not equivalent in general to either a "no" or a "yes" vote. Not voting simply means you don't have a direct, countable influence on the outcome.

Correction

Regarding my previous comment, the assertion addressed was that not voting is equivalent to voting "yes." My second sentence should read therefore: "Just because you can make up a scenario where an abstention results in an amendment passing doesn't make the assertion that not voting is equivalent to voting "yes" true in general." Otherwise, the argument stands as stated.

Response to Bob

Bob, please note that this was a position stated by the Pasco Democrats in a press release dated Sept. 12th, not me: "The Pasco DEC recommends voters ensure they vote the whole ballot with a “NO” on each amendment. Skipping an amendment is equivalent to a “YES” vote as the number of votes cast on each determines the 60 percent threshold needed to pass." On today's show I read verbatim the explanation I received from them on that position. If you still have questions, here is the contact info listed on the press release: Contact: Elaine Togneri/727-378-4368 New Port Richey, FL Thanks for listening to Last Call!

Response to Lisa

I can understand why the Pasco Democrats would like it to be true that not voting is equivalent to a "Yes" because they want to see the amendments defeated, but it is still a falsehood except in narrowly defined circumstances. Another group, motivated to see the amendments succeed, could declare that not voting is equivalent to voting "No" citing precisely the same faulty reason. They would be wrong, too. -- Thank you for listening, too.

An analogy

Here's an apt analogy. Putting an amendment up for a vote is like holding a tug-of-war contest. If participants don't pull for the side they want to win, they yield to the other side. Perhaps this it the idea behind "not voting is voting for the other side" yet not pulling is NOT puling for the other team. It is just yielding to it.

Thanks

Thanks for presenting this information about the amendments, Lisa. One of the more informative Last Calls, in my opinion.