Redistricting amendment lawsuit drops Voting Rights Act allegation

William March | 01/31/2011

In a new court filing, two Congress members who are suing to overturn one of the state’s anti-gerrymandering amendments have dropped one of their key allegations in the suit, the claim that the amendments violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

That’s happening at the same time that Gov. Rick Scott has withdrawn an application to the U.S. Justice Department for “pre-clearance” of the amendments, a preliminary ruling by the Justice Department that the amendments conform to the Voting Rights Act.

Democrat Corinne Brown of Jacksonville and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami are suing to overturn Amendment 6, passed by voters Nov. 2, which governs the drawing of congressional districts. It and Amendment 5, which applies to state legislative districts, both seek to limit gerrymandering.

When Brown and Diaz-Balart filed the suit last year, it charged that Amendment 6 violates the Voting Rights Act, under which the state has been forced to establish congressional and legislative districts designed to elect minorities. Brown and Diaz-Balart both hold seats from such minority access districts.

Weirdly shaped minority districts provided much of the impetus for the anti-gerrymandering move.

Florida is subject to the Voting Rights Act because of a history of alleged racial discrimination in its elections laws. Despite the lawsuit’s allegation, proponents of the amendments expected they would easily receive Justice Department pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act.

Scott said he withdrew the state’s request for pre-clearance because he wants more information, but hasn’t made clear what information he wants or why.

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