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Florida Legislature Tells Supreme Court That Fair District Amendment Is “Unenforceable”

| December 21, 2014



Lawyers for the Legislature told the Florida Supreme Court in a brief filed late Friday that part of a state ban on political gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution.

The filing is the latest chapter in a long-running battle over whether lawmakers rigged congressional districts during the 2012 redistricting process to benefit Republicans. Voting-rights organizations argue that the maps were influenced by politics, contrary to an amendment to the Florida Constitution approved by voters in 2010.

Those voting-rights groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, are appealing a decision by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to approve a revised map the Legislature passed over the summer to address two districts Lewis ruled were flawed.

But in the Legislature’s brief filed Friday, attorneys for state lawmakers said the “Fair Districts” amendment dealing with congressional redistricting — another amendment dealt with state House and Senate maps — runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution because it was approved by voters. The U.S. Constitution gives legislatures the right to set “(t)he times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives.”

That, the lawyers say, would include the boundaries of the districts.

“Amendment 6 purports to regulate federal elections, but was not enacted by the Legislature. Amendment 6, therefore, was not constitutionally enacted and is unenforceable,” attorneys wrote.

The court papers do not challenge Amendment 5, which included similar language barring gerrymandering in legislative maps.

Similar claims have already been turned away by the federal courts. In early 2012, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected an effort by Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown to have the amendment struck down.

“All Amendment Six does is require the Legislature to account for some particular standards when conducting the complex task of drawing congressional district lines,” the federal appeals-court judges wrote. “States can and routinely do consider the very same factors when redistricting.”

In Friday’s filing, the Legislature’s lawyers said the federal court got it wrong in the earlier case, Brown v. Secretary of State of Florida, and the Florida Supreme Court was not bound by that decision.

“The decision in Brown effectively reads the words ‘by the Legislature’ out of the Constitution,” the brief says.

The filing also defends on a case-by-case basis the districts specifically challenged by the voting-rights groups. And it pushes back on arguments that a secret effort by Republican political consultants to funnel maps through the public into the legislative process proves lawmakers were involved in a conspiracy to rig the districts.

“There is no evidence in the record that any operative ever provided a map to a legislator or staff member,” the lawyers wrote. “There is no evidence that any operative sat together with a legislator or staff member to draw a district, or that any operative advised a legislator or staff member how districts should be drawn. Email communications among the operatives do not establish an unlawful concert with the Legislature.”

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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7 Responses for “Florida Legislature Tells Supreme Court That Fair District Amendment Is “Unenforceable””

  1. Fred says:

    Turn it over to Kimmy Weeks!!! She will make it happen!

  2. Sherry Epley says:

    All part of political maneuvering to diminish the impact of each of our personal votes. And, these court cases are essentially paid for with our tax dollars! Who benefits? The 1% . . . including the attorneys! All the MORE REASON to get out there and vote, write letters, protest and make our voices heard over the “cha ching” of the almighty buck! Let’s take our country back. . . while it still may be possible!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Republican politics on Florida in a nutshell: We stack the deck whenever and however possible and we don’t care.

    • Fred says:

      Anony….Not requiring a person to show an ID when voting is the Democrats attempt to stack the deck in their favor. Neither side is clean and for you not make that clear in your post and to point the finger in one direction is disingenuous.

      • Nancy N says:

        Tens of thousands of people – belonging to groups that disproportionately vote Democrat – were disenfranchised by the state’s voter ID law. In comparison, there have only been a handful of cases of voter fraud in the state that had to do with ID.

        So remind me again who is trying to stack the deck? There’s no proof either way who gets a possible handful of fraudulent votes if ID isn’t required. There’s A LOT of proof that voter ID laws disenfranchise Democratic populations.

        Voting is a fundamental right in this country and we should be doing everything possible to allow people to exercise it, not telling them that they can’t vote because they are too old, or too poor, to have ID.

        Voter ID is the brainchild of ALEC, that festering cesspool of Republican evil shadow government that is really running most states in this country.

        The real voter fraud that is going on has nothing to do with ID – it’s things like people maintaining registrations in two places.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “We don’t want to be fair so let’s justify our discriminatory actions by saying that any action to try to prevent them are unavoidable.” This pretty much defeats what the American legal system is supposed to be all about. The founding fathers would not be proud of the actions of these “lawyers for the legislature.” They’d be appalled.

  5. JimBob says:

    Is the Legislature suggesting that it is illegal not to gerrymander?

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