The ACLU of Florida has filed a motion “to intervene as defendants” in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Amendment 6 — one of two so-called “Fair Districts” amendments that limit the Florida legislature’s ability to draw district lines to protect incumbents and guarantee one-party dominance.
Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, filed the challenge to Amendment 6 the day after it passed a statewide referendum with 63 percent support. As I reported last month:
Both Brown and Diaz-Balart are minorities who represent districts where the majority of citizens are minorities. Brown’s constituency is 50 percent African-American. Diaz-Balart (who jumped districts this year to take the place of his retiring brother) will soon represent a district that is 70 percent Latino.
Their districts, which group together minority voices at the expense of geographic logic, are indicative of the problems with the current system that Amendments 5 and 6 were created to correct. (Amendment 5 deals with state legislative districts; 6 with congressional lines.)
With its action, the ACLU seeks to join the state of Florida in defending the constitutionality of Amendment 6, which the organization worked to help pass.
“We were intimately involved in the process,” says Randall C. Marshall, who is representing the ACLU in court. “With the amendments having successfully passed, we have a continuing interest that they are fully implemented.”
If the judge in the case grants the ACLU’s motion, Marshall says his group will “offer a full and independent analysis” of the issues that arise in the case, and that the ACLU “would not be limited to waiting and seeing” how the office of incoming Attorney General Pam Bondi — which will represent the state — responds in court.
In a July interview with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, Bondi said she planned to vote against Amendments 5 and 6:
[Bondi] said she would vote against two proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot that would change the way electoral district boundaries are drawn, saying she had heard there could be “unintended consequences” for minority voters.
“I can’t tell you what they are, but I have heard from multiple sources that there could be some unintended consequences. … So right now I would vote no on (amendments) 5 and 6,” she said. “I was just told that within the last few days.”
While the ACLU’s motion says it seeks to intervene in the case because its “interests are not adequately represented by existing parties,” Marshall says that’s not a criticism of Bondi — whose office is expected to file its thoughts on the lawsuit by Jan. 11.
“I’m not trying to disparage the attorney general,” Marshall says, “because a good attorney general can oppose something as a candidate and support the constitutionality of a statute. So it’s not a matter of saying that because the attorney general-elect opposed the amendments, she won’t, or her office won’t, defend their constitutionality.” The ACLU’s action is merely the result of its “interest in the amendments.”
Marshall expects the judge in the case to rule on the ACLU’s motion soon, but there is no deadline. “We certainly think that it will be ruled on before much of the litigation happens,” Marshall says.
Read the ACLU motion in full here: