Election 2016: Guide to voting up and down the ballot

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Millions of Floridians have cast their votes for the next president. However, many voters don’t know that the U.S. general election is not only the time to vote for presidential candidates but also senators, house representatives and amendments that could change the state’s constitution.

For those who haven’t voted yet and are planning to early vote or brave the lines on Nov. 8, here’s some of the other oval options you’ll find on your ballot:

Amendment 1: Florida Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use Initiative

What are you voting on?: The rights of individuals to use solar energy and be exempt from subsidizing solar power if they choose not to. Many voters have been misled by the wording of Amendment 1, an initiative backed by fossil fuel and utility companies in Florida. Proponents argue that this amendment will protect consumer rights and prevent unfair pricing. Opponents argue that the amendment gives more control to utility companies over solar power and will hurt the growth of solar energy in Florida by discouraging investments.

A vote YES means: Constitutionalizing the pre-existing right of Florida residents to own or lease solar equipment and ensuring that those who do not use solar power do not have to subsidize it.

A vote NO means: Leaving in place the Florida statute that allows consumers to own or lease solar-power equipment on their property. This would allow third-party companies to sell electricity to consumers.


Amendment 2:  Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions

What are you voting on?: Legalizing the use of medical marijuana (cannabis) to relieve the symptoms of people battling specific diseases and conditions including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, Parkinson’s diseases and multiple sclerosis. The amendment does not legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

A vote YES means: Amending the Florida Constitution to state that people with certain medical conditions can use marijuana if approved by a physician. This would also allow the creation of treatment centers where marijuana could be grown and distributed to approved patients or caregivers. State and federal laws criminalizing the use of recreational marijuana would remain.

A vote NO means: The current laws of criminalizing use of all marijuana would remain. Florida law currently allows physicians to prescribe non-smoked low-THC marijuana to patients with cancer or other diseases that cause constant pain, seizures or spasms. Many cities around the state have already decriminalized possession of marijuana in quantities less than 20 grams.


Amendment 3: Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders

What are you voting on?: An extension to an existing property tax-exemption in the Florida Constitution for spouses of first responders who have died on duty. The amendment would extend the existing property-tax exemption to first responders including police and correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, who have become “totally and permanently disabled” on the job.

A vote YES means: Adding the extension to allow first responders who are totally and permanently disabled to receive the property-tax exemption. Will have an undetermined effect on local property tax revenues.

A vote NO means: Not adding the extension. No impact on local tax revenues.


Amendment 5: Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Senior, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value

What are you voting on?: Amending the Florida Constitution so low-income seniors, aged 65 and up making less than $28,448, will not lose their homestead exemption. The homestead exemption was made to protect the value of the resident’s home from property taxes and creditors following the death of the homeowner’s spouse, if the value of the property rises.

A vote YES means: Add an amendment to the Florida Constitution allowing for low-income seniors to keep their property tax exemption by determining the value of the property during the first year they apply. Even if the value of the home were to exceed $250,000 later on, the property for tax exemption purposes would be valued at what it was during the first year.

A vote NO means: Opposing the amending of the Florida Constitution that would value the property during the first year the senior citizen applies.


U.S. Senatorial Race:

Marco Rubio (Incumbent)

Party: Republican

Rubio, a Miami native and University of Miami School of Law alumnus, was first elected to the United States Senate in 2010. After serving six years, he is up for his first re-election. During the first portion of 2016, Rubio spent his time running to be the Republican party’s presidential nominee. Shortly after dropping out of the race for the nomination, Rubio said he was supporting Donald Trump for president. During his time in the Senate, he became known as one of the members of the “Gang of Eight.” The Gang of Eight, made up of four Republican senators and four Democratic senators, created the first draft of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, an immigration reform proposal. Rubio supports an immigration reform that secures the border, and then works toward legal status and a path to citizenship. He supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among twelve countries, including China, that aims to cut tariffs and boost trade growth. Rubio has been vocal about working toward repealing the Affordable Care Act. Rubio has been endorsed by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Patrick Murphy (Challenger)

Party: Democratic

Murphy, another University of Miami alumnus, was elected in 2012 to represent Florida’s 18th congressional district. During his first year serving in Congress, Murphy voted in support of the Northern Approval Act which would have allowed Congress to approve construction of the Keystone Pipeline. Murphy, who was a registered Republican but later switched to the Democratic party, voted against the Affordable Care Act repeal in 2013. Most recently, Murphy voted in favor of creating a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks – going against the majority of his party. Murphy has been endorsed by President Barack Obama.


U.S. Representative Race:

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Incumbent)

Party: Republican

Ros-Lehtinen, an immigrant born in Havana, Cuba, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988. She became the first Cuban-American to be elected to Congress. Ros-Lehtinen has been an active politician since 1983 when she was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. Ros-Lehtinen voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She also voted against Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program that would give aid to workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign trade. She voted in favor of stronger screening processes for refugees from Iraq and Syria. As the mother of a transgender son, Ros-Lehtinen has been a vocal advocate for anti-discriminatory laws against the LGBT community.

Scott Fuhrman (Challenger)

Party: Democratic

Fuhrman, a Miami native, is a businessman running for Congress to unseat Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Fuhrman inherited his family’s juice company, Florida Bottling Co., that bottles and distributes fruit juice all over the country. According to Fuhrman’s website, he would “like to build upon the foundation of the Affordable Care Act.” On immigration, Fuhrman wants a “comprehensive reform that secures our borders and creates a path to citizenship for hardworking Americans.”

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