Redistricting Amendment Lawsuits Filed in Florida

Two of Florida’s Members of Congress filed a lawsuit to take redistricting reform off the state’s November 2010 ballot. Representatives Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) oppose Amendment 6 to the Florida Constitution, which, combined with the preceding Amendment 5, is known as the FairDistricts proposal. Diaz-Balart asserts that he and Representative Brown are filing the lawsuit to prevent Amendment 6 from getting on the ballot because the amendment “is riddled with inconsistencies and…would set unworkable standards in drawing districts.” The Sunshine State News wrote that Brown and Diaz Balart fear Amendment 6 “misleads voters and could hurt minority representation in Congress.”

The primary text of the proposal states that state legislative and Congressional districts “shall be drawn with[out] the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities.” Amendments 5 and 6 also call for all districts to be compact and contiguous.  The FairDistricts proposal has been supported by traditionally-Democratic groups such as the Florida Education Association and Service Employees International Union. The NAACP supports Amendments 5 and 6, while some African American Democratic legislators — including Representative Brown — oppose them.

A citizen petition brought about the FairDistricts proposal, and in response the legislature added Amendment 7 to the November ballot. Amendment 7, through carefully-worded operatives, would effectively cancel out Amendments 5 and 6. Amendment 7 gives itself supremacy over all other constitutional amendments, and allows legislators to maintain communities of interest when redistricting the state. Instead of the clear-cut redistricting regulations of Amendments 5 and 6, Amendment 7 vaguely creates standards that must be followed during redistricting. Dubbed “the poison pill amendment,” Amendment 7 could prevent redistricting reform in Florida. Howard Troxler of the St. Petersburg Times opined that Amendment 7 “is an attempt to trick the voters of Florida into wiping out Amendments 5 and 6.” The Sunshine State News reported that the Florida Democratic Party felt Amendment 7 “could result in a disproportionate number of mostly Democratic-leaning, black voters pushed into a handful of districts.” The Florida NAACP filed a lawsuit to remove Amendment 7 from the November Ballot. The Florida League of Women Voters and Democracia Ahora joined the NAACP in its lawsuit to block Amendment 7.

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