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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Let the People Speak, Unless It Affects Me,|Two Florida Congressmen Tell Federal Court

MIAMI (CN) - Two members of Florida's congressional delegation have challenged a new, voter-approved amendment to the state constitution that changes the way congressional districts are redrawn. Democrat Corrine Brown, who is black, and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, who is Latino, say Amendment 6 will deprive minority voters of their right to representation.

Brown's long, oddly shaped district appears to be most directly threatened by the new rules. Both representatives asked a federal judge to enjoin the amendment as unconstitutional.

The honorables claim the harm threatened to Florida citizens - and to them - "is sufficiently real and/or imminent to warrant the issuance of a conclusive declaratory judgment."

Florida voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved two amendments setting new rules for drawing legislative districts, but the two officeholders challenged only one, Amendment 6.

Amendment 6 requires districts to be compact, equal in population and to use city, county and geographical boundaries if possible. It prohibits drawing districts to favor or disfavor an incumbent or a political party or to deny minorities the chance to elect representatives of their choice.

Brown and Diaz-Balart claim the new standards threaten the continued existence of six congressional districts in Florida where African-Americans and Latinos are either the majority or nearly equal in number to white voters.

"Certainly, minority communities do not live in compact, cookie-cutter-like neighborhoods," the complaint states.

Previously, the only redistricting requirement in Florida was that districts be contiguous.

After the returns on Amendment 6 became apparent Tuesday night, Brown, who represents an oddly shaped district that snakes from Jacksonville on Florida's East Coast to Gainesville on the West Coast, issued a statement vowing to fight what she called "misguided, deceptive amendments."

Both lawmakers claim Amendment 6 violates the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits diminishing the electoral power of minority groups.

They claim that protecting minority incumbents also protects the ability of minority groups to elect representatives of their choice.

The Florida Legislature will redraw legislative and congressional districts next year, after the release of 2010 Census data.

The lawmakers are represented by Stephen Cody of Palmetto Bay.

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