The legal arguments about Florida’s political maps continue to mushroom. While the Florida Supreme Court and the Legislature grapple with how congressional districts will be drawn, more legal fights are building in federal courts. Voting-rights groups Friday formally sought to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed this month by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who is among the most-outspoken opponents of a redistricting process spurred by the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts requirements. The groups, which helped spearhead voter approval of the requirements in 2010, argued in a court document that Brown’s position in the case would “eviscerate the Fair Districts amendments.” Also late last week, a coalition that includes state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola Beach, filed a separate lawsuit in federal court alleging that the Fair Districts amendments — and the way they have been carried out — violate constitutional free-speech and due-process rights.
That case stems, at least in part, from a series of decisions by the Supreme Court and legislative leaders to try to limit the influence of political operatives in drawing districts. While much of the attention on such issues has involved Republican operatives, the coalition also includes two Alachua County Democrats who echo Brown’s arguments that revamping her district could affect the ability of black voters to elect a candidate of their choice.
“The cumulative effect of the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of Florida’s redistricting amendments ensures that the amendments violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said the lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Pensacola. “This interpretation forces private citizens to run the gauntlet of vexatious litigation, and public censure and ridicule when choosing to engage in political speech or petitioning of their government.”