ACLU Cheers Passage of Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MIAMI – Floridians won a significant victory for voting rights on Tuesday with the passage of Fair Districts Amendments 5 & 6. This historic vote will move Florida forward towards more fair elections with less gerrymandered districts, and a system far less likely to allow politicians to rig elections.
The ability of politicians to gerrymander districts in order to protect their seats and reward their friends and allies is diminished, and the protection of minority voting rights has been strengthened – added to the Florida Constitution for the first time.
In past three election cycles, Florida’s redistricting process has given incumbents running for reelection to the Florida Legislature an unfair and decisive advantage – the product of an incumbent-protecting process that denied voters competitive elections. The odds were so stacked against fair and competitive districts that only 3 out of 420 incumbents in those election cycles lost. No wonder our political system is broken and the public has such a cynical view of government.
But now we have hope for the future and Amendments 5 and 6 are a great start for historic change in Florida. The ACLU of Florida played a major role in this victory, and we thank our staff, volunteer leaders, and members. Our political committee, People over Politics, assembled a campaign team, located in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami to work alongside FairDistrictsFlorida.org.
ACLU Chapter volunteers across the state worked to support Amendments 5 & 6 by taking the Fair Districts message to hundreds of thousands of voters in their local communities who came out to support reform. The ACLU of Florida held hundreds of voter education events, engaged the media and spread the word about Amendments 5 and 6. This was a significant victory that crossed party lines.
The ACLU of Florida also secured important endorsements from some of the country’s foremost civil rights leaders, including Dr. Julian Bond, former President of the N.A.A.C.P. and Reverend Joseph Lowery, founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. At a critical time in the campaign, these leaders weighed in on the debate, lending their voices of support for Amendments 5 and 6 and assuring voters that the rights of minority communities would be strengthened with the passage of these amendments. Both leaders recorded messages for the campaign that reached more than half a million voters through recorded calls and radio ads.
The ACLU of Florida’s voting expertise helped shape the campaign’s message to counteract the opposition’s misinformation and scare tactics.
Now, we must turn our attention to monitoring the implementation of Amendments 5 & 6.
“Given the willingness to distort the truth about the Fair Districting amendments by opponents, it may be the elevation of hope over reality to expect that the Amendments will be faithfully implemented,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.
“It is most likely that the redistricting plan that will be drawn up next year by those who bitterly opposed Amendments 5 & 6 – who even went to court to try to prevent voters from having the opportunity to take back their electoral system – will end up in protracted litigation to force the Legislature to adhere to the rules that were imposed on them by the voters.”
The ACLU is poised to keep an eye on the Legislature and make sure that the letter and spirit of Amendments 5 & 6 are respected and carried out as legislators redraw district lines in 2011. While this is a great victory for all Floridians, we will remain vigilant and committed to protecting the voting rights of citizens of Florida.
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