Florida Redistricting Reform Stalls

The state of Florida has withdrawn its request for Department of Justice “preclearance” of two new voter-approved redistricting reform measures, known as Amendments 5 and 6. Both constitutional amendments were approved by over 60 percent of voters in the November 2010 general election. They place new limits on the legislature as it draws boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts, stipulating that districts should not favor a political party or incumbent or ethnic group and that they should be compact and nested inside existing political boundaries when possible. Since five Florida counties require “preclearance” from the Justice Department before any law regarding voting in those counties may take effect, Governor Charlie Crist submitted the amendments to the Department of Justice for approval after their passage in November. But on January 7, newly-elected governor Rick Scott and his Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, sent a letter the Justice Department withdrawing the submission.

Rick Scott, Governor of Florida
In Scott’s own words, the attempt was to look at “the amendments that were passed, how they’re going to be implemented. We want to make sure that with regard to redistricting, it’s fair, it’s the right way of doing it. So it’s something I’m clearly focused on.” Fair Districts Now, an advocacy group dedicated to overseeing the implementation of Amendments 5 and 6, has filed suit against Gov. Rick Scott for delaying the implementation of the amendments. The Florida League of Women Voters, several chapters of the NAACP, and others have also signed on to the suit as plaintiffs. Central to the suit is the role of Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who is responsible for submitting the amendments to the Justice Department. Prior to his appointment as Secretary of State, Browning served as president of Protect Your Vote, a PAC that worked to defeat Amendments 5 and 6 during the 2010 campaign. The attempt to delay implementation of the amendments comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrat Corrine Brown, both members of Congress, to defeat the amendments on the grounds that they violate voting rights laws. The Republican-controlled Florida House of Representative has signed on as a party in that lawsuit, while the Florida Democratic Party has stated its intention to defend the amendments in tandem with Fair Districts Florida. View the lawsuit filed by Fair Districts Florida and the League of Women Voters View the letter sent to the Justice Department by Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning

Leave a reply