Lawyers for the Legislature told the Florida Supreme Court in a brief filed late Friday that part of a state ban on political gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. The filing is the latest chapter in a long-running battle over whether lawmakers rigged congressional districts during the 2012 redistricting process to benefit Republicans. Voting-rights organizations argue that the maps were influenced by politics, contrary to an amendment to the Florida Constitution approved by voters in 2010. Those voting-rights groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, are appealing a decision by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to approve a revised map the Legislature passed over the summer to address two districts Lewis ruled were flawed. But in the Legislature’s brief filed Friday, attorneys for state lawmakers said the “Fair Districts” amendment dealing with congressional redistricting — another amendment dealt with state House and Senate maps — runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution because it was approved by voters.
The U.S. Constitution gives legislatures the right to set “(t)he times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives.” That, the lawyers say, would include the boundaries of the districts.
“Amendment 6 purports to regulate federal elections, but was not enacted by the Legislature. Amendment 6, therefore, was not constitutionally enacted and is unenforceable,” attorneys wrote. The court papers do not challenge Amendment 5, which included similar language barring gerrymandering in legislative maps.