After taking office, Gov. Rick Scott silently withdrew the state’s requests to the U.S. Justice Department for approval of Amendments 5 and 6 – an unannounced move that was just discovered by reporters earlier this month.
The amendments were approved by Florida voters in the Nov. 2 election as measures to prevent gerrymandering, which redraws voting districts to favor a particular party or candidate.
Scott’s decision may be irrational or political – either way it’s unacceptable. Floridians must not be willing to tolerate this potential silencing of their vote.
The midterm elections saw Scott win the governor’s office with only 48 percent of votes, while Amendments 5 and 6 received 63 percent of voters’ approval.
Yet, Scott’s administration has halted the move, claiming a lack of census data, among other reasons.
“We’re going to get all the information we need, the census data and things like that, and then we’ll do the right thing,” Scott said in Lakeland last week.
However, Scott has yet to explain how census data relates to the application, which leads many to question whether there are ulterior motives.
The Republican-dominated Florida House of Representatives has asked to join a lawsuit that’s attempting to label Amendments 5 and 6 as unconstitutional. This suit could halt new redistricting that would, if the amendments were instituted, create a political atmosphere that’s more reflective of Florida’s diverse population, which is expected to rearrange power in Democrats’ favor.
Dan Gelber, an attorney for FairDistrictsFlorida, said redistricting committees are already meeting and discussing the new district alignments without the amendments in place.
It seems that Scott may be buying time so the lawsuit can kill the amendments, or so districts can be drawn up without the new parameters.
Or maybe he’s just trying to delay the results of districts that are drawn up more contiguously, ending the vicious cycle of state legislators drawing up voting districts after every census to favor their own party by making political opponents a minority in every possible district.
Whatever the motivations, Scott and other opponents of Amendments 5 and 6 must respect the intelligence and wishes of Florida voters who supported the amendments more than the governor who’s threatening them.