The Legislature's decision to counter the Fair Districts Florida redistricting amendments with its own was declared misleading by Judge James Shelfer, who tossed it off the ballot. His ruling is sure to be appealed.
Shelfer said it took him three days to understand the meaning of Amendment 7 and that he couldn't foresee how an average voter would grasp its description during a few minutes in the voting booth.
That's quite a blow to future Senate President Mike Haridopolos and the Republicans in the Legislature who portrayed Amendment 7 as a model of clarity. They said it was needed to "clarify" two other amendments, 5 and 6, placed on the ballot by a group called Fair Districts. Haridopolos, who co-sponsored Amendment 7 with Democrat Gary Siplin, said the Fair Districts amendments could harm minority voting rights. Florida Congressional leaders, Republican Mario Diaz Balart and Democrat Corrine Brown agree and are challenging Fair Districts.
But Fair Districts backers say Amendments 5 and 6 are simply intended to make it tougher for lawmakers to favor incumbents and political parties when they draw congressional and legislative districts.
The Legislature's proposal was drafted in the waning days of session and changed at least once. It wasn't the clearest of amendments, giving the NAACP and other backers of Fair Districts fertile ground to argue it was misleading.
"The Legislature's amendment was gobbledygook," said Ron Meyer, one of the NAACP lawyers.
Shelfer essentially agreed, saying the way Amendment 7 was written could undo the Fair Districts Amendments and could make it easier for legislative and congressional districts to be drawn without being continguous. So one politician could represent two different areas of the state, say Jacksonville and Okaloosa County.