The Florida Legislature today will ask the federal government to approve a pair of voter-approved constitutional amendments requiring lawmakers to draw nonpartisan political districts. The original application was submitted by former Gov. Charlie Crist, but Gov. Rick Scott quietly withdrew it three days after taking office.
Submitting the new application will get considerable more publicity. "Despite pressure form special interest groups, I committed to Floridians that my review of the preclearance application for Amendments 5 and 6 would be thorough and complete," Scott said in a statement that will be released shortly. "The action of the Legislature today delivers on that promise."
Scott said in January that withdrawing the application was part of his push to review all new rules and regulations in the state. But supporters of the amendments, crafted with the backing of liberal fundraising groups, accused Scott of obstructing the will of voters and sued him. On Friday, Scott given an extention to respond to the suit.
Scott's office, along with attorneys from the House, Senate and Attorney General Pam Bondi's lawyers determined the Legislature and the AG's office -- not the governor -- is the proper authority to submit the application. Republican leaders at the Capitol also say the initial application did not address "retrogression," a legal term that refers to whether a redistricting plan reduces minority voting strength.
Minority voting strength is essentially the entire reason the state needs federal approval for major elections changes. Five Florida counties -- Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe -- have a history of racial discrimination, voter intimidation and low rates of minority voter registration.