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Poll: Miami-Dade voters divided on two county charter amendments on primary ballot

A frustrated electorate ousted Miami-Dade’s mayor in a historic recall election last year that signaled voters’ hunger for change, and distaste for business as usual at County Hall.

Ten months later, however, a new poll has found that voters are divided — and largely uninterested in — two proposed county charter amendments that could make it easier to mount citizen petition drives and dramatically alter term limits and salaries for county commissioners.

The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll on Miami-Dade issues and politicians indicates that the amendments, which garnered only tepid support, may be doomed. Early voting began Saturday for the Jan. 31 election.

Forty-one percent of likely voters said they plan to vote for the main proposal, which would limit commissioners to eight years in office beginning in 2012 while banning outside employment and raising their salaries to about $92,097 a year from $6,000. The same percentage said they plan to vote against it, with 18 percent of poll respondents undecided.

“Usually people who are undecided tend to vote ‘no,’ or don’t vote at all,” said Fernand Amandi, managing partner of Bendixen & Amandi International, the Miami-based polling firm that conducted the survey for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, WFOR-CBS 4 and Univisión 23.

“Of the two [amendments], this one likely has the lesser chance of passage.”

A slightly higher proportion of voters — 45 percent — said they favor the proposal that would double to 120 days the period allowed for collecting signatures to place petition initiatives for charter changes on the ballot. But nearly a third of respondents said they remain undecided.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Norman Braman, the Miami billionaire auto dealer who financed last year’s mayoral recall and pushed for charter reform. “I don’t think anybody is overly thrilled with the two amendments.”

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, surveyed 400 voters between Tuesday and Thursday who said they will “definitely” vote in the election. Nearly four-fifths were Republicans planning to vote in their party’s presidential primary. Voters can cast charter-question ballots regardless of party affiliation.

Separately, the poll surveyed another 400 registered voters — 46 percent Democrats, nearly a third Republicans and about a fifth without party affiliation — on a variety of county issues, including cutting pensions and benefits of public employees. More here.