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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hispanic and Black Dems to sue over redistricting lawsuit.



As if the once-a-decade process of redistricting wasn’t complicated enough, there’s a new wrinkle: At least five black and Hispanic Democrats from Tampa Bay and South Florida are filing a court motion soon to ensure that the voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendment becomes law.

The constitutional amendment concerning standards for drawing congressional districts was approved by 63 percent of voters on Election Day. But less than 24 hours later, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Miami, and Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, sued to block the law. They said the new redistricting standards would hurt minority representation.

Then, House Speaker Dean Cannon, who unsuccessfully tried to scuttle the redistricting amendments in the courts and at the ballot box, intervened on behalf of Diaz Balart and Brown. Cannon’s court action says the redistricting standards (designed to prevent political gerrymandering) violated the U.S. Constitution.

Cannon’s motion officially made the House against the amendments. But now the House will be divided against thanks to the intervention of four Democratic representatives Perry Thurston, Joe Gibbons, Luis Garcia and Janet Cruz. Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa might intervene as well. So far, the Senate has stayed out of the fray.

“We are filing as members of the Legislature to make sure the districts are drawn fairly,” said Gibbons. “We had 63 percent of voters approve this and the law should be followed.”

Said Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff: “As Chairman Rod Smith announced on the day he was elected to lead he Florida Democratic party, we will be seeking to intervene in the lawsuit to protect the rights of the voters of Florida and what 63 percent of people approved last fall, which were the fundamental standards of fairness.”

-- Janet Zink

[Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 12:55pm]


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