One-Word Amendment to the Florida Constitutional Amendment to Prohibit Aliens from Voting

By Dan Cadman on October 5, 2020

During the November election, in addition to choosing a new president and dozens of state and local officials, Florida voters will be asked to consider several ballot initiatives, including a constitutional amendment. This is the text of proposed amendment:

ARTICLE VI, Section 2. Electors. Every citizen Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.

As readers will see, it substitutes the first word, "Every", with the word "Only". (Emphasis added.)

The proposed amendment was added to the ballot by a citizen initiative gathering nearly 1 million valid signatures. Nonetheless, the Florida Democratic Party and its local chapters are uniformly against the amendment. (Amusingly, the Florida Keys (Monroe County) Democratic Party calls the amendment "noncontroversial" and yet goes on to urge a "no" vote.) A large number of Florida media outlets are also against the amendment. (See, e.g., here and here.)

Virtually all describe it as a "gimmick" with no practical effect. Some go further to mention that it is already unlawful for aliens to vote in federal elections.

While it is true that non-citizens may not vote in federal elections, this state constitutional amendment is no gimmick. There is a distinct difference of practical importance in the one-word change, although even if it were only of symbolic importance, one still might think the initiative worth supporting.

The difference is that, at present, the Florida constitution does not, in fact, prohibit aliens from voting in state or local elections. According to Ballotpedia, only two states expressly do so. If this amendment were to pass, Florida would become the third. That would render it impossible for state legislators or, for that matter, political subdivisions of the state at the county or city level, to enact or change laws in order to permit aliens — quite possibly including illegal aliens — to vote in any state or local election, and as an outgrowth of that, to run for office, whether as county councilor or fire district commissioner or property appraiser, or any other elected position.

A gimmick it is not.