As one election battle raged last week in Florida, the people of the state won another in the war on voters "declared" by the Republican party back in 2010. An appeal against the Fair Districts Amendment was rejected:
A three-judge federal appeals court panel in Miami has unanimously rejected an appeal by two Florida congressional members and state House Speaker Dean Cannon that asserted the 2010 Fair Districts anti-gerrymandering reforms were unconstitutional.
The 3-0 decision likely puts to rest the 14-month legal fight that U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and Cannon have waged since voters passed Amendments 5 and 6 -- called the Fair Districts reforms -- in November 2010. Those amendments required lawmakers to draw legislative and congressional districts that are more compact and protect minority-access without intentionally helping political parties or incumbents.
All three Fair Districts critics were involved in efforts to try and keep the amendments off the 2010 ballot and defeat them at the polls.
The day after the amendments passed, Brown and Diaz-Balart sued to block the congressional amendment, arguing it was improperly enacted by voters instead of lawmakers and intruded upon the power of Congress to regulate elections. Cannon later directed the House to join in the lawsuit, arguing the case involved an important principle for the Legislature that needed to be resolved.
The federal Elections Clause gives the Legislature the power to re-draw congressional lines, and lawyers for the House and congressional members have argued that power was curtailed by the reforms.
But in a strongly worded 32-page opinion upholding the lower-court ruling last summer, a panel of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their argument.
The challenge to the voters wishes has not only been costly to those same voters (or as much that has been disclosed by Cannon), but set off a number of ugly political maneuvers in Tallahassee on everything from manipulating redistricting software, to public hearings where lawmakers were "seen but not heard", and led to a proposal of the largest overreach of all: Allowing Gov. Rick Scott the sole authority to pick judges for the Florida Supreme Court.
Gov. Rick Scott recently said he hopes the proposal comes back. "When you're elected governor," he declared in a recent interview with WFLA radio in Tallahassee, "people expect you to not have a limit on who you can appoint."
With all due respect to the governor, the jury is no longer out on the subject of giving him yet more power. That's the last thing people want, but he knows that.
If Rick Scott and the Republicans in the legislature didn't know that, we wouldn't be having a dispute over fair districts, now would we?