Last week, Leon County Circuit Judge James Shelfer threw out a proposed constitutional amendment that has drawn opposition and a lawsuit by the Florida League of Women Voters, a Hispanic advocacy group and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, according to the Associated Press.
Acting correctly, Shelfer protected Floridians from aggressive political maneuvering by the Florida Legislature, which affected other amendments that were set to prevent gerrymandering – named after Elbridge Gerry, who famously drew up districts in his political favor – by Florida politicians.
District boundaries are redrawn every 10 years with the assistance of new census information in hopes of more fairly representing the electorate.
Amendment 7 would have greatly limited Amendments 5 and 6, which were placed on the ballot via a citizen initiative, for which the group Fair Districts Florida accumulated about 600,000 voter signatures.
The proposal’s language was so complex that Shelfer had a difficult time comprehending it in his three-day review.
“This amendment is nothing if not deceptive,” said Ron Meyer, attorney for the plaintiffs, according to the AP. “The court was saying, here he is a lawyer and a judge who had difficulty parsing through it.”
If a judge had a difficult time understanding the proposal, it is unlikely the average voter would understand what is at stake in the short amount of time spent in the voting booth.
Republicans opposed Amendments 5 and 6, and Shelfer said Amendment 7 would wipe out their proposed requirement that says all voters in a district must live in communities touching one another.
Preventing gerrymandering is incredibly important. The political threat posed by Amendment 5 to incumbent legislators is evident by their calculated attempt to negate the amendment’s effectiveness.
While registered Republicans are only 36 percent of the electorate, they control nearly three-fifths of the U.S. House seats and two-thirds of the Legislature, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
Florida has been held hostage by a state legislature that faces little accountability as a result of outlandish districts that have been drawn to limit the power of political opponents.
Attorneys for the Legislature and Secretary of State’s office have said they will appeal the decision, which means it will likely come before the Florida Supreme Court.
The court should side with Florida voters as Shelfer did and prevent abuses that may arise from Republican legislators’ unethical attempts to monopolize on state power.