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Florida Redistricting, Amendment 7 (2010)

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Florida Redistricting, Amendment 7 did not appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Florida as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The proposal, known as HJR 7231, called for barring lawmakers from favoring a political party or incumbent when redrawing legislative or congressional district lines. However, the proposal would allow lawmakers to continue basing districts on "communities of common interest."[1][2][3][4]

On April 26 the House voted 74-42 to refer the amendment to the ballot.[5] The Senate voted 25-14 on April 30; qualifying the measure for the ballot.[6][7] In order to qualify for the November 2010 ballot the proposed amendment required a minimum of 60% in the both the House and the Senate.[8]

On July 8, 2010 Circuit Judge James Shelfer ruled that the legislatively-proposed amendment would no longer appear on the 2010 general election ballot. According to reports, the ruling will be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. However, a final decision must be made by September 2, the deadline for measures to be added to the ballot before ballot printing begins.[9][10][11]

Text of measure

According to the Florida Department of Elections the summary of the measure read as follows:[12]

In establishing congressional and legislative district boundaries or plans, the state shall apply federal requirements and balance and implement the standards in the State Constitution. The state shall take into consideration the ability of racial and language minorities to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice, and communities of common interest other than political parties may be respected and promoted, both without subordination to any other provision of Article III of the State Constitution. Districts and plans are valid if the balancing and implementation of standards is rationally related to the standards contained in the State Constitution and is consistent with federal law.

Support

Supporters of the proposed amendment, sponsored by Rep. Dorothy Hukill and Senators Mike Haridopolos, Gary Siplin and Alfred Lawson, argued that the amendment would clarify the two certified redistricting initiatives scheduled to appear on the ballot.[13] The proposed measure was supported by House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon and Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos.[14]

Arguments

Sen. Gary Siplin said, "It clarifies the Legislature’s duty to apply federal law while balancing it with existing state standards and case law."[15] Additionally, Republicans argued that the proposed amendment would help ensure minority representation. Rep. Erik Fresen and Rep. William Proctor argued that proposed Amendments 5 and 6 (on the 2010 ballot) would not help minorities and only create a few minority-majority districts.[5]

  • Rep. Dorothy Hukill and Rep. Chris Dorworth said they questioned the motives behind the Fair District amendments and whether they were a grassroots effort or heavily financed by special interest groups, like ACORN.[5]
  • Rep. Steve Crisafulli said, "Amendments 5 and 6 claim to be locally focused with communities at heart, but they are not. Simply said, this joint resolution is. Members, I encourage you for the sake of those communities that you represent to vote in favor of this common sense joint resolution."[16]
  • Dr. Daniel E. Loeb supported the need to address the "well-intentioned but poorly designed" Amendments 5 and 6. Dr. Daniel Elliott Loeb has a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT. His research interests included the mathematics of voting, mathematical finance, statistics and game theory. Dr. Loeb notes that Amendments 5 and 6 will inadvertantly result in political gridlock and "less competitive" elections. "Fair District Florida’s proposed amendments to the Florida State Constitution not only fail to address the current situation, they will make matters worse."[17]

Opposition

House Democrats, according to reports, disagreed with the proposed amendment because they said that it would undermine the two citizen initiatives already certified for the ballot.[13] Rep. Ronald Brisé said,"This resolution seeks to weaken the will of the people." Rep. Richard Steinberg said,"This is about incumbency protection and preserving the status quo."[5]

Arguments

Of the proposed amendment Rep. Ron Saunders said, "Once again we have certain members saying they know better, they know what's right and they have a better idea of what people need than people that are most affected. If the NAACP says this is a bad amendment I think I would take their word."[2]

  • Sponsors of Amendment 5 and 6, the Fair Districts campaign, argued that the proposed amendment is a perfect example of why the initiative amendments were needed. "Those in power will do everything they can to protect their seats, avoid truly competitive elections, and maintain the ability to manipulate districts for political gain," said Ellen Freidin.[18]
  • Rep. Rick Kriseman said, "The fundamentalist Republicans supporting this bill are pushing this bill because it will still favor incumbents. It will ensure that the party in charge remains in charge." House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands agreed. He said,"...it's a desperate attempt to hold onto power and to keep the status quo and to disrespect the will of the people."[16]
  • Sandra Horikami, president of the League of Women Voters of Volusia County who helped petition for the citizen redistricting initiatives (Amendment 5 & 6), said, "It is discouraging to find that, after two years of petition gathering, the Senate can write an amendment that essentially nullifies the amendments we support in the last two weeks of the legislative session. Your elected lawmakers that represent you are ignoring the voices of more than 1 one million voters who signed these petitions. Having the Fair Districts Florida amendments and the legislators' amendments on the ballot will be confusing to voters at the polls. The Senate's amendment should not make it to the ballot."[19]
  • Gov. Charlie Crist said he was opposed to Amendment 7. In mid-May Crist announced his support for initiated constitutional amendments Amendment 5 and Amendment 6. Crist's support for Amendment 5 & 6 followed his announcement that he was detaching from the Republican party and now "independent." He described the legislatively-referred measure a "silver bullet" that he would have vetoed because it was "unnecessary."[20][21]

Media endorsements

Opposition

  • The Palm Beach Post opposed the proposed legislatively-referred redistricting amendment. In an editorial, the board said, "Gall. Shamelessness. Hypocrisy. Self-interest. All were on display Monday as the Florida House approved a constitutional amendment designed to let politicians keep picking voters...The spectacle Monday made clear why Amendments 5 and 6 should be on the ballot by themselves. Given the choice between the people and power, politicians will go with power every time."[22]

Lawsuit to block Amendment 7

See also: 2010 ballot measure litigation

On Friday, May 21, 2010 proponents of Amendment 5 and 6, citizen initiatives, filed a lawsuit to remove Amendment 7 from the statewide ballot.[23] The suit was filed in state Circuit Court in Tallahassee by Florida State Conference of the NAACP, 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.[24] Initiative supporters argued that the legislatively-referred amendment was a "poison pill" specifically designed to divert Amendments 5 and 6. They argued that the ballot title and summary were misleading and was hiding the measure's "true purpose."[25][26][27]

Rep. Dean Cannon, a supporter of Amendment 7, argued that it wasn't the legislative-referral that was misleading. Fair Districts Florida, sponsors of Amendment 5 and 6, were pushing "claims and promises" that they "could not deliver," he said. In a statement Cannon said Amendment 7 meant exactly what it said and that the lawsuit was trying to argue "that the intent matters more than the plain meaning of the words."[24][28]

The filed lawsuit can be read here.

Amendment 7 removed from ballot

On July 8, 2010, Circuit Judge James Shelfer ruled that the legislatively-proposed Amendment 7 would not appear on Florida's general election ballot. Judge Shelfer said, "I'm not the brightest light on the Christmas tree, but it took me three days...to get a handle on what this amendment does." Shelfer added that the measure's summary was a "failure to inform the public is clearly and convincingly an attempt to hide the ball."[29][30]

According to reports, the ruling would be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. However, a final decision is required by September 2; the deadline for measures to be added to the ballot before ballot printing begins.

In reaction to the July 8 court ruling, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who supported Amendment 7, said, "If [the judge] found our amendment confusing, I can't wait until he takes a look at 5 and 6."[31] "There's no question that the Legislature drafted and passed that amendment with the intent of fooling the voters," said Ellen Frieden, campaign manager for Fair Districts Florida, following the July 8 court ruling.[31]

Florida Supreme Court hearing

In early August, the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments on August 18.[32] On August 31 the state's high court upheld previous lower court decisions to throw out the proposed measure. The court ruled that the measure was also misleading because it did not highlight to voters the effect on the state's district requirements and because it would undermine the state's current requirement that districts be "contiguous."[33][34]

Similar measures

See also: Florida Amendment 5 and Amendment 6

The amendment was proposed in response to the already certified Amendment 5 and Amendment 6, which were scheduled to appear on the 2010 statewide ballot. The measures proposed amending the current practice of drawing legislative and congressional district boundaries in such ways that they establish "fairness," are "as equal in population as feasible" and use "city, county and geographical boundaries."[35]

Path to the ballot

See also: Florida law for legislatively-referred constitutional amendments

In order to qualify for the November 2010 ballot, the proposed amendment was required to be approved by a minimum of 60% in the both the House and the Senate. The proposal cleared a Senate Committee on April 23 and a House panel on April 22.[1]

On April 26, the House voted 74-42 to place the amendment on the ballot.[5] The Senate voted 25-14; qualifying the measure for the ballot.[36][7]

Ballot order

Prior to Amendment 7 being removed from the ballot, as of May 2010 the Fair Districts Florida proposed citizen initiatives were scheduled to appear on the ballot as Amendments 5 and 6 followed by the legislatively-referred Redistricting amendment as Amendment 7. Jaryn Emhof, spokesperson for Senate President Jeffrey Atwater said, "It makes practical and logical sense to position HJR 7231 with the other reapportionment amendments." Jill Chamberlin, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Larry Cretul, said, "there’s logic to minimize voter confusion and provide clarity by positioning those three together." However, Fair Districts Florida campaign chairman Ellen Friedin argued that it was evidence that supporters of the legislative referral were trying to "trick the voters" in an effort to protect "their own political power."[37]

See also

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 First Coast News, "Florida Lawmakers May Offer Redistricting Amendment," April 23, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 Associated Press, "Fla. House passes redistricting amendment," April 26, 2010
  3. The Florida Times-Union, "Florida House approves property insurance hike: Redistricting argument," April 28, 2010
  4. Sunshine State News, "Amendments 7 and 8 on Ballot," May 20, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Sunshine State News, "House Passes Redistricting Amendment to Counter Other Measures," April 27, 2010
  6. Associated Press, "Lawmakers put own districting plan on Fla. ballot," April 29, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 Associated Press, "3rd Redistricting Amendment May Go On Fla. Ballot," April 29, 2010
  8. CBS4, "Legislature's Redistricting Plan Makes Fall Ballot," April 30, 2010
  9. Ballot Access News, "Florida State Court Judge Removes State Legislature’s Redistricting Measure from November 2010 Ballot," July 8, 2010
  10. WUSF, "Judge Throws Out Amendment 7: Says It Confuses Voters," July 8, 2010
  11. SunshineStateNews.com, "Florida Voices: Amendment 7," July 9, 2010
  12. Florida Department of Elections, "Standards for Legislature to follow in legislative and congressional redistricting:Summary," accessed May 20, 2010
  13. 13.0 13.1 Associated Press, "Dems question Fla. House redistricting amendment," April 23, 2010
  14. Orlando Sentinel, "Redistricting fight gets uglier as lawmakers try to push through new amendment," April 26, 2010
  15. Sunshine State News, "Democrats Divided on Redistricting," April 23, 2010
  16. 16.0 16.1 FirstCoastNews.com, "Redistricting Battle Goes to Florida Ballots," April 26, 2010
  17. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, "Redistricting Reform: Florida's Ballot Iniatives Would Actually Make Things Worse," April/May 2010
  18. The Daily Loaf, "FairDistricts Florida head blasts passage of HJR 7231," April 26, 2010
  19. The Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Lawmakers move to stymie redistricting reform by trying to slip an imposter on the ballot," April 28, 2010
  20. St. Petersburg Times, "Crist backs Fair Districts reform and bashes legislature's 'rigid adherence'," May 19, 2010
  21. Miami Herald, "Charlie Crist's redistricting stance riles Republicans," May 21, 2010
  22. The Palm Beach Post, "Marginalizing state's voters: Sham amendment one step from November ballot," April 26, 2010
  23. The Tampa Tribune, "Florida redistricting attracts amendments, lawsuits," May 31, 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 The Herald Tribune, "Groups file suit on redistricting ballot measure," May 22, 2010
  25. Associated Press, "Court asked to take Amendment 7 off Fla. ballot," May 21, 2010
  26. Orlando Sentinel, "Civil-rights groups sue to block lawmakers' redistricting amendment," May 21, 2010
  27. St. Petersburg Times, "NAACP et al sue to block Legislature's "sham" redistricting amendment," May 21, 2010
  28. JaxPoliticsOnline.com, "Fair District Amendments Challenged; Lawmakers Look to Keep Their License to Gerrymander," June 1, 2010
  29. Orlando Sentinel, "Judge throws out Legislature's redistricting amendment," July 8, 2010
  30. The Palm Beach Post - Post on Politics, "Court knocks redistricting initiative from ballot," July 8, 2010
  31. 31.0 31.1 The Florida Times-Union, "1 bill removed from ballot in redistricting debate," July 8, 2010
  32. Associated Press, "Fla. justices hear arguments on 3 amendments," August 18, 2010
  33. WUSF, "Three Amendments Thrown Off Florida Ballot," August 31, 2010
  34. The Miami Herald, "3 amendments kept off Florida ballot," September 1, 2010
  35. JaxPoliticsOnline.com, "Fair District Amendments Aim to Reshape Florida," April 11, 2010
  36. St. Petersburg Times, "Redistricting passes Senate, heading to ballot," April 30, 2010
  37. Orlando Sentinel, "Fineout: FairDistricts crying foul over ballot placement," May 20, 2010