Heated debate and lawsuits develop about redistricting amendments in Florida

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May 26, 2010

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida: A total of three redistricting measures have been certified for the ballot and are scheduled to appear together in the November election. Citizen initiatives Amendment 5 and 6 will be followed by Amendment 7, a legislatively-referred measure. However, as of this week two lawsuits have been filed to block both Amendment 6 and 7 from the ballot.

On Friday, May 21 proponents of Amendment 5 and 6 filed a lawsuit to remove Amendment 7 from the statewide ballot. The suit was filed in the state Circuit Court in Tallahassee by Florida State Conference of the NAACP (dead link), the League of Women Voters, Democracia Ahora as well as former Republican comptroller Bob Milligan. "This is a trick amendment and it is a blatant effort to fool voters," said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.[1] Initiative supporters argue that the legislatively-referred amendment is a "poison pill" specifically designed to divert Amendments 5 and 6. They argue that the ballot title and summary are misleading and is hiding the measure's "true purpose."[2]

Rep. Dean Cannon, a supporter of Amendment 7, argues that it isn't the legislative-referral that is misleading, Fair Districts Florida, sponsors of Amendment 5 and 6, is pushing "claims and promises" that they "could not deliver," he said. In a statement Cannon said Amendment 7 means exactly what is said and that the lawsuit is trying to argue "that the intent matters more than the plain meaning of the words."[1]

In a turn of events, on Monday, May 24 U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart filed a lawsuit against Amendment 6 in Leon County Circuit Court. Balart said, "Amendment 6 is riddled with inconsistencies and, if passed, would set unworkable standards in drawing districts." Both U.S. Representatives had previously testified against Amendment 6. Ellen Freidin, Fair Districts Florida chairwoman - sponsors of Amendment 5 and 6, said the lawsuit by the congressional members was aimed at "playing games." Amendment 5, also a proposed redistricting measure, is not directly cited in the lawsuit. Freidin added,"They clearly haven’t read the language of our amendments. We specifically have addressed their concerns."[3] But both Brown and Diaz-Balart argue that Amendment 6 is not only misleading but would dilute minority voting powers in the state.[4]

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