Judge rejects "Fair Districts" challenge

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A federal district court judge in Miami quickly decided Friday to uphold the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendment governing the redrawing of congressional maps, turning aside a challenge from a bipartisan pair of members of Congress who had opposed the measure. Judge Ursula Ungaro, who persistently questioned attorneys for U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, a Democrat, and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, said she had already prepared an order ruling in favor of the amendments and heard nothing in oral arguments that changed her mind, reports the News Service of Florida. The amendment, which is aimed at cutting back on politically gerrymandered districts, was overwhelmingly approved by voters in last year’s elections, as was another dealing with legislative districts. Attorneys for Brown and Diaz-Balart argued it was an unconstitutional infringement on the Legislature’s rights under the U.S. Constitution to draw the lines. Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, general counsel for advocacy group Fair Districts Now, said lawmakers should move forward with drawing the lines. “It’s sad that Floridians had to hire an arm of lawyers to protect themselves from their own elected officials,” Gelber said. Brown and Diaz-Balart, who also fear the standards could hurt minority representation, promised to appeal. “It’s just step one, and we’re going on all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary,” Brown said.

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.