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Bondi Tells Court to Dismiss Amendment 6 Case

By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida Email
By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida Email

Tallahassee, FL - Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked a federal court to dismiss a case filed by two members of Congress that attempts to strike down a recently passed amendment to the Florida Constitution changing the way congressional districts are drawn.

Bondi filed the motion in the federal Southern District Court this week, arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction over the case filed by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami. Amendment 6, seeking to prevent lawmakers from drawing districts that favor themselves or political parties, was passed this fall by Florida voters.

The new amendment would require congressional districts – set to be redrawn in time for the 2012 elections – to basically take the gerrymandering out of the process, requiring lawmakers to draw more regular, compact districts that try to follow traditional map boundaries, rather than drawing odd-shaped districts meant to help incumbents or the party drawing them.

A separate new constitutional amendment voters also approved, Amendment 5, outlines the same requirements for state legislative districts.

Brown and Diaz-Balart filed the suit to scuttle Amendment 6, which passed with 63 percent of the vote, the day after Election Day arguing that it violated federal election law guaranteeing equal access for minority candidates. Some districts have essentially been gerrymandered to guarantee the election of a minority.

Bondi, in her filing, said that the Southern District Court should dismiss the case because Brown and Diaz-Balart didn’t file it in the right court. The court that covers Washington, D.C. hears cases dealing with congressional districts, she said.

“Plaintiffs’ second claim—that implementation of Amendment 6 will cause retrogression of minority voting rights and therefore that it is invalid under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act…must also be dismissed for jurisdictional reasons because the United States District Court for the District Court of Columbia retains exclusive jurisdiction over this sort of claim.”

A spokeswoman for Bondi could not be reached for comment on whether the new attorney general will continue to defend the new constitutional requirement, which many members of her political party tried to defeat over the past year, if it is moved to the court she says should hear it.

The Florida Legislature, led by then incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and then incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, last year passed a pair of amendments of its own intended to blunt the FairDistricts’ proposals and also hoped to get the FairDistricts’ amendments thrown off the ballot in court. However, ultimately, the Supreme Court tossed the Legislature’s proposals from the ballots, accusing lawmakers of trying to confuse voters.

A spokesman for Haridopolos, now Senate President, said he had no comment on Bondi’s motion.

New Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith has repeatedly said that defending Amendments 5 and 6, which most political observers assume will help his beleaguered party, would be one of his top priorities at chairman. Republicans hold an overwhelming majority in both chambers of the Legislature.


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