Is a Statue Requiring Local Supervisors of Elections to Verify Signatures on Initiative Petitions Constitutional ?
In State ex rel. Citizens Proposition for Tax Relief v. Firestone, 386 So. 2d 561 (Fla. 1980), the Supreme Court of Florida upheld the constitutionality of a statute requiring local supervisors of elections to verify signatures on initiative petitions.
In so holding, this Court set forth the rule that we have employed in our subsequent citizen initiative decisions, a rule which recognizes the Legislature's duty and authority to enact reasonable regulations of the initiative process to ensure ballot integrity.
Specifically, the court stated:
The four methods of amending our constitution must be considered as a whole to effect their overall purpose. Smathers v. Smith, 338 So. 2d 825 (Fla. 1976).
They are delicately balanced to reflect the power of the people to propose amendments through the initiative process and the power of the legislature to propose amendments by its legislative action without executive check. . . . In considering any legislative act or administrative rule which concerns the initiative amending process, we must be careful that the legislative statute or implementing rule is necessary for ballot integrity since any restriction on the initiative process would strengthen the authority and power of the legislature and weaken the power of the initiative process.
The delicate symmetric balance of this constitutional scheme must be maintained, and any legislative act regulating the process should be allowed only when necessary to ensure ballot integrity.
We do, however, recognize that the legislature, in its legislative capacity, and the secretary of state, in his executive capacity, have the duty and obligation to ensure ballot integrity and a valid election process.
Ballot integrity is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the constitutionally provided initiative process. Firestone, 386 So. 2d at 566-67.
Further, the Court in Firestone explained that "verification is essential to ballot integrity and the legislature and the secretary may prescribe reasonable regulations to ensure an expeditious and proper verification process." Id. at 567.