Filing Petitions in Orange County Gets Tougher Under Proposal
There are more than 15 proposed changes to the Orange County Charter Review Commission’s rules on who collects petitions and how they do so. Under one proposed change, petitions could only be presented for single issues—not several at once. Under another change, each petition would need at least ten percent of Orange County’s voters’ signatures in order to be valid. The current requirement is ten percent of signatures from voters in the majority of each district—or 6.7 percent. Another proposal calls for an independent group to review each petition, with a waiting period before making it to the ballot.
Michelle Levy, who represents the Florida League of Women Voters, agrees with some of the proposed changes such as making petitions single issue-based. But she says the other changes are excessive.
“They’re putting such burdens on the petition gatherers—much for difficult to get an amendment on the state constitution than it is to get an amendment on the Orange County charter.”
Backers of the proposal say it will keep the process transparent. But for Levy, the recommendations reflect distrust of the average citizen.
“It’s just based upon the fact that somehow we are tricking people into signing petitions or we’re forcing them to sign petitions and they’re all coming from out of state,” she says.
Orange County requires less petition signatures than other parts of the state to change its charter, according to Charter Review Commission chair Kevin Shaughnessy. He’s prepared to hear a presentation of the recommendations.
“Anytime that you have a petition process, it’s in the public’s best interest that it be clear, transparent, and people know what they’re signing,” he says.
Other proposed changes include requiring an independent group to do a legal review of each petition.
Tonight’s decision by the commission could place the proposed changes on the November ballot.
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