State Democrats looking to pick a fight with new Governor Rick Scott have found a goldmine in the revelation reported last week that he has withdrawn former Governor Charlie Crist's request to the Department of Justice for approval of Florida's two newest constitutional amendments, Amendments 5 & 6. That request must be submitted before the laws can go into effect here in the Sunshine State.
On Thursday, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Democracia Ahora and several individual voters in Monroe County filed suit asking a court to order Scott and Browning to re-submit the FairDistricts amendments to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for approval. Without that approval, the new redistricting reforms cannot legally be implemented.
The plaintiffs say that if Scott had done what he legally was supposed to do, the DOJ review would have been completed by early this month.
Browning was a longtime Supervisor of Elections in Pasco County before being named by Charlie Crist to become his Secretary of State in 2007. After leaving office, he led the effort to oppose the passage of amendments 5 & 6 called Protect Your Vote.
Former South Florida Democratic State Senator Dan Gelber is now serving as an attorney for FairDistrictsNow, the political action committee that campaigned for the two amendments, which aim to bring fairness to the drawing of Congressional and Legislative districts in Florida. In a press release issued on Thursday, Gelber said:
"Its 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."
Leon Russell, who serves as Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP and is a board member with FairDistricts Now, said:
It is a shame to see the Governor and the Secretary of State purposefully disregard their constitutional duty to follow the law. Clearly they are trying to stop the impact of these much needed reforms. It is important that these amendments are pre-cleared so that this redistricting process is carried out according to the standards that the people of Florida have established.
Although registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by approximately 600,000 voters, the state's Legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, leading a group of mostly Democrats but some Republicans to campaign last year for the passage of the two constitutional amendments to bring about fairness in the drawings of those districts, which theoretically would result in more Democrats being elected to Tallahassee.