Florida judge boots Amendment 7 off the ballot

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July 9, 2010

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida: The legal battle between citizen-proposed redistricting amendments and a legislative referral reached a pinnacle on Thursday, July 8. Circuit Judge James Shelfer ruled that the legislatively-proposed Florida Redistricting, Amendment 7 will 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 is a "failure to inform the public is clearly and convincingly an attempt to hide the ball."[1][2]

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.

In reaction 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."[3]

Amendment 7 was proposed by lawmakers following the proposal of two citizen initiatives - Amendment 5 and Amendment 6. The measures, supported by Fair Districts Florida, propose making amendments to the current method of establishing legislative and congressional district boundaries. Supporters of Amendment 7 argued that the amendment aimed to clarify the certified initiatives scheduled to appear on the ballot. Opponents, however, argued that it would undermine the citzien initiatives.

"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.[3]

The lawsuit to remove Amendment 7 from the ballot was initiated May 21 by proponents of Amendment 5 and 6. The suit was filed in the 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.

A lawsuit to block Amendment 6 remains pending. The lawsuit, filed on May 24 by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart, argues that the amendment "is riddled with inconsistencies and, if passed, would set unworkable standards in drawing districts."[4]

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