Fla. AG wants congressional redistricting suit tossed

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 14, 2011, 1:35pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a motion on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit by two of the state's U.S. Representatives that seeks to strike down an amendment on congressional redistricting.

U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida in November -- just one day after the general election.

In September 2007, the Florida Department of State's Division of Elections approved an initiative petition prepared by FairDistrictsFlorida.org for circulation that establishes new criteria for congressional redistricting.

The Congressional Petition obtained the necessary number of signatures and was certified for placement on the November 2010 general election ballot as Amendment 6.

The amendment was approved by more than 60 percent of the voters casting ballots on the question.

Upon its receipt of more than 60 percent of the votes cast, Amendment 6 became Article III, section 20 of the Florida Constitution, which provides:

- No apportionment plan or individual district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice; and districts shall consist of contiguous territory;

- Unless compliance with the standards in this subsection conflicts with the standards in subsection 1 or with federal law, districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable; districts shall be compact; and districts shall, where feasible, utilize existing political and geographical boundaries; and

- The order in which the standards within sub-sections 1 and 2 of this section are set forth shall not be read to establish any priority of one standard over the other within that subsection.

In their eight-page complaint, Brown and Diaz-Balart say the constitutional amendment creates an "irreconcilable contradiction."

The representatives wrote that the amendment "represents an impermissible effort by Florida to limit the discretion directly delegated by the United States Constitution to the Florida Legislature."

The suit asks that the court declare the amendment unconsitutional.

Bondi, in her two-page motion, argues that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs claim under Article I of the U.S. Constitution, based on the state's 11th Amendment immunity.

She also argues that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claim under the Voting Rights Act because the District Court for the District of Columbia has exclusive jurisdiction over substantive claims under the act.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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