Claiming it — not the Governor’s office — has the legal authority controlling the redistricting process, the Florida Legislature will file an application on Tuesday for ‘pre-clearance’ with theU.S. Justice Department to approve Amendments 5 and 6 as required under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
According to a draft of a joint House and Senate media alert,it was theGovernor’s office thatrequested assistance from the Legislative branch and Florida’s Attorney General to deal with the requirements of’pre-clearance.’
This comes in stark contrast to earlier this year when, as Steve Bosquetreported, after Scott took office, the state quietly withdrew its request that the U.S. Justice Department approve Amendments 5 and 6 as required under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, effectively stalling their implementation just as a Republican-led lawsuit challenges their constitutionality.
The impact of the Legislature’s actions seeking ‘pre-clearance’ on that lawsuit is unclear.
What is also unclear is the the reason why Gov. Scott came to the conclusion that it was better for the Legislature to seek the ‘pre-clearance’ rather than his office.
The two changes to the state Constitution require approval by the Justice Department because they affect voting standards for racial and ethnic minorities in five Florida counties (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe counties), a process known as “preclearance” under the Voting Rights Act.
Gov. Charlie Crist sent a letter to the federal government in December asking for preclearance. But on Jan. 7, three days after Scott took office, the Department of State sent a one-sentence letter to the Justice Department Voting Rights Section that said “The Florida Department of State withdraws the above-referenced submission.”
The Justice Department does not typically comment in these matters.
Amendment 6 isalready the target of a federal lawsuit filed by U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, who contend the changes violate the voting rights laws. That lawsuit does not involve Amendment 5.