Upgrading the required Autotools versions may exclude some people from being able to build CouchDB without upgrading their build toolchain. Just checked OS X and these versions seem to be installed already.
I'm not sure I understand the changes in the patch. Could you give them more of an explanation in the comments here so I understand what's being changed and why?
Also, would it be possible for you to submit a patch which doesn't alter formatting alone? I believe the last half of the patch just changes some indentations. I'd prefer it if this was left out.