Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida High Court Considers Redistricting Issue; Justices Weigh the Merits of a Proposed Amendment to the State Constitution

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida High Court Considers Redistricting Issue; Justices Weigh the Merits of a Proposed Amendment to the State Constitution

Article excerpt

Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's Supreme Court on Thursday considered the technicalities of a question with decades-long implications on how the Sunshine State is governed: Should political districts be drawn by politicians?

All seven justices heard arguments for and against the technical merits of a proposed constitutional amendment that would go before voters in November and yank redistricting powers from the Legislature. By law the court is required to ensure that the amendment contains only a single subject and that the title and summary voters would see on the ballot is not misleading.

Republicans, who control the Legislature, are resisting the proposal and have launched a legal effort to persuade the court that the proposal fails both requirements. Supporters, including the government watchdog group Common Cause, which led the amendment's petition signature drive, said the measure is accurate, worthy and ready for voters.

Several Republican legislators attended Thursday's hearing, as did former state Education Commissioner and 2004 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor.

"The current process is a corrupt process, and I think it would be far better for people to decide the boundary lines instead of having politicians draw their own districts," Castor said. "Both parties are equally guilty in the past of controlling a self-serving process, and it's time now that we look at creating a process where people have more input."

Justices were not considering the merits of the proposal, and no decision was issued Thursday. However, the state constitution requires them to make a decision by April 1 for the November ballot.

Rep. Dudley Goodlette, R-Naples, a lawyer, argued alongside lawyer Barry Richard, who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore litigation, that the redistricting amendment contains multiple subjects since it would affect both legislative and congressional district lines. …

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