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Florida Politics: Poll finds Floridian’s want ‘Marsy’s Law’

Monday, October 16, 2017

By Peter Schorsch

More than eight out of ten Floridians say they would vote for a ballot initiative putting victims’ rights into the state constitution according to a new poll put out Wednesday.

The survey found 85 percent of the 700 likely voters polled agreed with the proposed ballot language being tossed around by Marsy’s Law for Florida, the major backer of the measure which also commissioned the poll.

The ballot language played well with voters from both major parties, with 83 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Independents saying they would vote for the amendment.

Marsy’s Law establishes a “Victim Bill of Rights” which would require victims to be told about their rights as well as services available to them, and would add updates on criminal proceedings, meetings with state attorneys before plea deals are handed out, and the ability to be attend and speak during court proceedings to the list of rights crime victims have.

The proposal is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Her case eventually led to California’s passage of the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, with Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois adopting the measure in the years since.

Proposal backers say Florida is one of only 15 that doesn’t explicitly spell out victims’ rights in its state constitution, but Marsy’s Law for Florida State Director Greg Ungru said the poll shows Floridians are ready to make the change.

“The Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights is a true bipartisan effort that brings together law enforcement, civic leaders, elected officials and citizens from every walk of life. I believe, if approved by the CRC and placed on the ballot, victims’ will finally have their constitutional rights established in Florida,” he said.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will have a look at the measure, Proposal 5, over the coming weeks and has the support of CRC Commissioner Chris Nocco, who filed it with the CRC. If cleared by commissioners, it will appear on the 2018 ballot.

“The Victims’ Bill of Rights empowers victims within the state of Florida,” Nocco said. “We had no doubt that citizens would be very supportive of this proposal to give these once voiceless victims the ability to be heard.”

The most popular angle among Florida voters was asking whether victims should have the same rights as those accused of crimes, which 92 percent of Republicans supported, with well over 80 percent of Democrats and Independents saying they were on board as well.

Voters were agreeable, but a little less enthusiastic for some of the other poll questions.

When asked whether the constitution should force state attorneys to consult with victims before plea bargains are made, 77 percent said yes. Likewise, 70 percent agreed that they would rather have victims rights guaranteed by the state constitution than protected by local state attorneys.

OnMessage conducted the poll between Oct. 1 and Oct. 3. It has a +/- 3.7 percent margin of error.

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