The Sinister Reason Why Florida Republicans Are Attacking Democracy

Florida Republicans have introduced a bill to make it even harder to pass ballot initiatives, ahead of a crucial vote for abortion access in the state.

State Representative Rick Roth quietly introduced a measure in early November to raise the threshold for ballot initiatives to 66.7 percent of votes. Florida already requires 60 percent of voters to support amending the state constitution, meaning the minority rules the Sunshine State. But Roth’s bill would make it even harder to ratify amendments.

Roth and his fellow Republicans argue that the new threshold is necessary to ensure “broader public support” for amendments. But what’s more likely is that they want to ensure certain issues never succeed at the ballot box.

One such issue is abortion access. Florida’s 15-week abortion ban went before the state Supreme Court in September. If the court upholds the law, then an even more restrictive measure banning abortion at six weeks—before most people know they are pregnant—will go into effect. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the hugely unpopular bill in April.

The pro-abortion group Floridians Protecting Freedom is working to get an abortion rights referendum on the state’s 2024 ballot. The group has collected a little more than half the signatures necessary to get on the ballot, but it already has enough for the state Supreme Court to review the amendment for a potential vote.

If it succeeds, then abortion protections would likely be enshrined in the state constitution, overriding any laws the legislature has passed. A February study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 64 percent of Floridians believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases—more than enough to defeat the state’s 60 percent minimum.

Hence the Republican need for Roth’s bill to raise the minimum to 67 percent. Roth introduced a similar measure last year that easily passed the state House, but it failed in the Senate.

Republicans are panicking about their ability to block abortion, and it’s no secret why. Every time an abortion-related measure is on a ballot, voters consistently choose to increase protections for the procedure, even in otherwise red states.

Most recently, Ohio voters chose overwhelmingly to enshrine abortion in the state constitution. The November ballot initiative came just a few months after Ohioans handily defeated a Republican attempt to raise the ballot initiative threshold to 60 percent.