The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division today announced its approval of Florida’s two “Fair Districts” amendments — measures approved overwhelmingly by Florida voters last fall that limit state lawmakers’ freedom to gerrymander districts in an effort to ensure one-party control.
The Justice Department’s approval was necessary to implement the amendments because the federal Voting Rights Act requires certain states to submit changes to voting laws to the department so it can ensure the changes will not result in diminished minority voting rights.
Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning were sued in February for putting the brakes on the approval process shortly after Scott took office (the Department of State insisted Browning never played a role in that decision). In March, Florida Speaker of the House Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos resubmitted the amendments for approval, appending an 11-page document outlining their interpretation of the amendments and making the claim that, despite the two measures, “the Legislature may continue to employ whatever means were previously at its disposal” to promote “minority voting strength.”
The Justice Department didn’t address the merits of that argument in its terse letter, which you can read in full here: