During the midterm elections this year voters will be asked to vote not just for candidates in local, state and federal positions, but also for important "ballot questions" including 12 state amendments, 3 county charter amendments and one school board question. If you aren't prepared when you arrive in the voting booth, it could take you much longer than normal to vote.
Polk County Supervisor of Elections has mailed out sample ballots that you should have received in the mail. To review the sample ballot from this year click here. This is a combination ballot and includes races that you may not be voting on depending on your address.
Besides the candidates' races there are 3 parts of your ballot asking you to address state, county and school board questions.
The School Board Question - RENEWING investment in our schools
Perhaps one of the most important questions you will be asked on your ballot is the very last one. That's right. When you walk into the ballot box, turn the ballot over to the back, look at the very last column and question. This is asking you to RENEW a 1/2 sent sales tax that for Polk County schools specifically that we as voters enacted in 2003. The Chamber Board of Directors has taken a position of support for the renewal of this 1/2 cent sales tax. This funding is incredibly important to the Winter Haven community as we are one of the fastest growing communities in the country. Our existing schools need improvements and we will need new schools to help accommodate the growth.
Read the Chamber resolution of support here.
Learn more about what the sales tax has accomplished in the last 15 years here.
We are encouraging our members to vote "For the one half cent sales tax" RENEWAL.
Polk County Charter Questions:
There are three questions that have been added to the ballot by the County's Charter Review Commission. The challenge with many of the questions is they don't give a context for how things are now, or what they are asking you to change or not.
County Amendment 1 asks to remove the requirement to have an efficiency review commission from the charter. This commission currently meets every eight years and during the last commission a recommendation was made that it may not be necessary.
County Amendment 2 asks the voter to expand term limits for the county commissioners from 8 years to 12 years.
County Amendment 3 asks the voter whether to increase the number of years between the charter review commission from 8 years to 12 years.
More explanation from the commission here.
The State Amendments:
The Winter Haven Chamber has not taken a specific position on the constitutional amendments, but as a general rule of thumb we ask ourselves, does this REALLY need to be a constitutional amendment or could it be handled legislatively?
There are 12 total amendments on the ballot (titled 13 amendments but amendment 8 was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court). What makes this year unique is that the Constitutional Review Commission that meets every 20 years put measures on the ballot. Unlike legislatively added amendment questions and voter initiated ballot questions, the CRC does not have to adhere to the single subject litmus test, so many of these amendments appear "smashed together" and unrelated. It will make the voting process confusing and require analysis before hand. Here are a few helpful resources:
The Florida Tax Watch Voters Guide - includes ballot language, what a vote yes or no means, and what supporters and opponents say.
The Florida Chamber Election Guide - FloridaWins.org
The Florida Chamber has also partnered with nationally recognized economists, Tony Villamil of Washington Economics Group and Donna Arduin of Arduin, Laffer, Moore Econometrics to analyze a James Madison Institute study reviewing the various policies of the two leading gubernatorial candidates. For a snapshot of the comparison, click here. For the full James Madison Institute economic comparison, click here.