Last week, the Florida Supreme Court rightfully struck down Amendment 7, which would have affected redistricting and been on the ballot this November.
At first blush, the text of the proposed amendment seems reasonable and pertinent. It took the highly trained justices of the Supreme Court to wade through its generalities and discover the substance of the measure.
In the end, the court ruled that Amendment 7, conceived and created by the GOP controlled state Legislature, would, in effect, nullify Amendments 5 and 6, which were put on the ballot via a citizens’ initiative and are designed to prevent gerryman
dering, the unfair practice of redrawing district lines to benefit one political party or race.
Proponents of the amendment claim it would help elect more minorities and that it would impose tougher standards on the formation of congressional and legislative districts.
Amendment 7 reads: “The state shall take into consideration the ability of racial and language minorities to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice, and communities of common interest.”
In reality, the language is misleading. For instance, “communities of common interest” might apply to Tampa and Daytona, which could be districted together because Interstate 4 passes through both areas. Most egregious, however, is the last sentence of the amendment, which reads, “Districts and plans are valid if the balancing and implementation of standards is rationally related to the standards contained in the State Constitution and is consistent with federal law.”
Who’s to judge the “rationality” of a redistricting act? The sentence is essentially a blank check. The amendment would not be subordinate to any other amendment. In short, it would trump the other amendments that sought to guard against the self-serving practice.
The official majority opinion written by Justice Barbara Pariente said, “While purporting to create and impose standards upon the Legislature in redistricting, the amendment actually eliminates actual standards and replaces them with discretionary considerations.”
Florida citizens should be thankful that its Supreme Court saw through this attempt to wrestle power from people. The “fair districts” amendments were approved for voters because hundreds of thousands of citizens realized their importance and signed petitions.
Amendments 5 and 6 will ensure that districts will not favor one party and will be contiguous.
Amendment 7, on the other hand, was written by politicians for politicians. It would have helped incumbents determine the boundaries of their electorate, and it would have been on the ballot because a majority of both houses of the state legislature approved them.
The Florida Supreme Court was correct in striking down this deceptive amendment. Its decision was a perfect example of checks and balances working as the founders envisioned them.
Vincent Defrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.