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Amendment backers sue Gov. Scott, demanding he send redistricting to feds

The war over Florida’s political maps returned to court as a group of Monroe County voters, joined by three advocacy organizations, sued Gov. Rick Scott in Miami Thursday demanding that he follow through with the federal requirement to have a justice department review of the  new redistricting language approved by voters in November.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist quietly sought pre-clearance of the new amendment language at the request of the amendment backers on Dec. 10. Gov. Rick Scott quietly withdrew the request on Jan. 4, just two days into office, at the request of legislative leaders who are amendment opponents.

Now the five Monroe County voters who supported Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida Constitution are asking three-judge panel of federal judges from the Southern District in Miami to order the governor to act and that his failure to do so "will cause will cause uncertainty, delay and confusion'' as legislators begin the redistricting process this year. 

"The absence of preclearance for Amendments 5 and 6 jeopardizes the application of the new standards and renders the ongoing redistricting process legally uncertain, harming voters who intend to participate meaningfully in that process,'' the complaint says.

The lawsuit was filed on their behalf by Fair Districts Now, the committee formed to pass the amendments. They are joined by joined by the League of Women Voters, NAACP of Florida and the Hispanic civic organization, Democracia Ahora.

The lawsuit argues that federal law requires the state to submit any voting changes that affect voting rights act counties to the justice department “as soon as possible after the changes become final.” When the State Canvassing Board certified the election on Nov. 16, the changes became final, they argue.

They also note that Kurt Browning, Scott’s appointee to head the secreatery of state’s office which oversees state elections laws, has an inherent conflict. Browning served as chairman of the “Protect Your Vote” effort, a political committee formed to defeat the amendments.

“It’s time to stop stonewalling. Governor Scott and Secretary Browning should not be abusing their power to frustrate the will of the 63% who voted for these reforms.  The new standards must be sent to the Justice Department promptly to guarantee their implementation,” said Dan Gelber, Counsel for FairDistricts Now and a former state senator.

Here's the lawsuit: Download FDN Press Release & Complaint

The complaint is founded on the 1965 Voting Rights Act which requires that all redistricting maps and voting changes that affect the five Florida counties with a history of racial discrimination must be submitted to the U.S Department of Justice. Monroe, Hillsborough, Hardee, Hendry and Collier are the designated counties subject to the preclearance requirements in Section 5 of the act.