Appeals court upholds Florida redistricting amendment

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A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to Florida’s Amendment 6, added to the state constitution by voters to curb so-called gerrymandering of congressional districts that historically protected incumbents or gave advantage to the political party in power, reports the Associated Press.

The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rebuffed claims by U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, that the power to change congressional redistricting rules resides solely with the Legislature and not the voters through a referendum.

“The lawmaking power in Florida expressly includes the power of the people to amend their constitution, and that is exactly what the people did here in passing Amendment 6,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus in the 32-page opinion, which affirmed a September ruling by a Miami federal judge.

Amendment 6 passed with 62 percent of the vote in 2010. Among other things, it requires that the 27 U.S. House of Representatives boundaries in Florida be compact rather than sprawling; that they not be drawn to favor incumbents or political parties; and that they not be designed to shut racial or language minorities out of the political process.

Diaz-Balart and Brown also claimed that those new rules usurped the Legislature’s decision-making powers, but the court rejected that as well.

Diaz-Balart and Brown did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on whether they would ask the full appeals court to rehear the case or ask for U.S. Supreme Court review.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.