In a break from the usual political snoozefest, Florida’s 2024 ballot could shape up to be one for the history books, featuring hot-button topics like abortion rights and marijuana legalization. In a state known more for its sunshine and oranges than progressive policy, this shake-up could signal a seismic shift in the political landscape.
An ambitious group of organizers have been pounding the pavement and managed to gather more than a cool million signatures. Their goal? To make Florida’s constitution a stronghold for abortion access, and legalize the use of recreational marijuana.
The push for abortion rights has gained momentum in the wake of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) decision to sign a restrictive six-week abortion ban into law. Although that law is currently benched, awaiting the verdict of Florida’s conservative Supreme Court, activists aren’t sitting idle.
Floridians Protecting Freedom, a coalition of organizations dedicated to safeguarding reproductive rights, has been spearheading this effort. Featuring heavyweight champions of social justice like Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the ACLU of Florida, they’ve rallied more than $5 million in less than two months in support of the initiative.
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a law professor at Stetson University, underlined that when reproductive freedom has come up for a vote in other states after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022, it’s had a unanimous victory.
But there’s a catch. For the initiative to secure a spot on the 2024 ballot, it needs roughly 891,000 signatures from Florida voters by February 1, 2024. Once on the ballot, it must then score a 60% victory to officially integrate abortion access into the state’s constitution.
Amy Weintraub, from the group Progress Florida, argued that naming abortion as a constitutionally protected right is essential, given the state legislature’s current predisposition towards restrictive abortion laws. However, the initiative faces conservative backlash, with critics labeling the proposal as vague and misleading.
The state’s conservative Supreme Court, notorious for its knack for shooting down ballot initiatives deemed confusing, might be the biggest hurdle. Lauren Brenzel, campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, affirmed that they’ve painstakingly crafted the language of the proposal to withstand any legal scrutiny.
The Supreme Court’s track record in this area is less than stellar. Out of nine citizen initiatives reviewed in the past five years, four have been struck down. Recently, the court granted extra time to state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) to contest a ballot initiative proposing recreational marijuana legalization. Moody, too, contends that the initiative is vague and potentially confusing to voters.
In response, the ACLU fired back with a brief criticizing the court’s knack for dismissing ballot initiatives, describing their approach as an “acrobatic exercise.”
The marijuana legalization initiative has already gathered more than a million signatures, comfortably exceeding the necessary amount to qualify. If the Supreme Court doesn’t make a move by April 1, 2024, Floridians might see it on their 2024 ballots.
Constitutional attorney, Will Cooper, foresees a tough battle ahead, with the Florida Supreme Court playing a pivotal role in the outcome. Despite the potential roadblocks, the campaigns for these progressive changes show a clear, democratic push towards a more inclusive and liberated future in Florida.