ACLU Deplores Florida House Vote to Place 'Unfair Districts' Amendment on Ballot

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
April 26, 2010 12:00 am

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MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today denounced the vote by Florida House members to place HJR 7231 – an anti-voter amendment – on the November ballot. HJR 7231 and its Senate companion, SJR 2288, dubbed the “Unfair Districts” proposal, would undermine and override ballot measures 5 and 6, which would create a fair reapportionment process in Florida.

Nearly 1.7 million Floridians signed petitions to place Amendments 5 and 6 – the Fair Districts proposal – on the ballot, availing themselves of Florida’s citizen initiative process that gives citizens a voice in the lawmaking process.

“In passing HJR 7231, our legislators are making a mockery of our citizen initiative process and disrespecting the nearly 1.7 million Floridians who want the chance for a clean up/down vote on the Fair Districts proposals,” said Courtenay Strickland, ACLU of Florida Public Policy Director. “HJR 7231 and its companion, SJR 2288, are intended to confuse voters and are nothing more than a blatant act of self-interest by politicians who are more concerned about holding onto power than about respecting the will of the people.”

Neither SJR 2288 nor HJR 7231 prohibit the drawing of districts for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring a political party or incumbent, nor do the proposals have a provision for making districts compact or for requiring districts to follow local boundaries. Without these provisions, map drawers will have free reign to design districts to favor themselves or their colleagues.

“No one should be surprised that a one of the nation’s most gerrymandered legislatures voted to dilute an amendment designed to eliminate gerrymandering in Florida,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director. “What’s worse is that it was not done honestly – proponents claimed that this amendment would ‘clarify’ the Fair Districts amendments when in fact they dilute them and override their intent.”

Furthermore, SJR 2288 and HJR 7231’s purported safeguards for minority voters – voters who have traditionally faced unfair barriers to exercising their right to vote – certainly provide no better protection, and likely much less, than the Fair Districts language, which has been studied and vetted and is known to add protections for minority voters that do not exist today.

“It’s time for voters to be able to select their representatives, not the other way around,” said Muslima Lewis, ACLU of Florida Senior Attorney and Director of the ACLU of Florida’s Voting Rights and Racial Justice Projects. “Apparently, that notion is so threatening to some of our elected officials that they are willing to attempt to deceive and confuse voters in order to prevent that from happening. In the end, Floridians won’t be hoodwinked by their shameful tactics.”

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