State Judge Strikes Amendment 7 From Fall Ballot

Amendment 7 is the poison-pill amendment added by our glorious state legislature in an effort to preemptively undo the effects of Amendments 5 and 6. Today a judge in Tallahassee held that Amendment 7 is too confusing and misleading to be on the ballot. See The Jacksonville Observer, Judge Yanks Redistricting Amendment from Fall Ballot, for more. (The headline is misleading: Amendment 7 is better thought of as the anti-redistricting amendment.)

It's important to understand just how raw a move Amendment 7 is. Florida is a state that is, most of the time, pretty finely balanced between Republicans and Democrats — we were, after all, the ultimate 50/50 state in the Bush-Gore election. But our state electoral districts are heavily gerrymandered to produce an overwhelming Republican majority.

As a result, the only way in which progressive legislation ever happens here is by referendum. That was, for example, how we got the maximum class size amendment passed. (Jeb Bush and other GOP leaders then spent years trying to repeal or undermine it, but generally failed.)

The referendum process is far from perfect, and may even discomfit those small-r republicans who see republican virtue in representative processes and demotic danger in direct democracy, but it has on balance been good for Florida. (See Of Pigs and the Ballot Box.) It was, therefore, particularly unfortunate — but in no way surprising — that Florida Republicans recently managed to enact a constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for all future amendments.

Florida progressives then decided to attack the root cause of our electoral problems by putting two amendments on the ballot which would eliminate gerrymandering by requiring rational and compact districts. Amendments 5 and 6 — the result of a popular campaign to attract the large required number of signatures — may not be perfect, but they're pretty good. There were certainly good enough to frighten Tallahassee politicians. In fact, from afar it seems the state political establishment panicked. Sadly, this panic was not limited to the State's GOP but also included entrenched Democrats in minority districts who knew that their electoral prospects would be harmed if black voters were no longer lumped together in a small number of political ghettos but instead distributed more rationally according to political and geographic boundaries.

The result was Amendment 7, surely one of the most undemocratic ideas to emanate from Tallahassee in some time. Not even willing to wait to see the results of the popular vote — perhaps they knew what was coming? — our legislators voted to put a poison pill on the ballot which, were it to pass, would largely if not totally undo the effects of the two amendments on the ballot before it. In other words, in response to state constitutional amendments placed on the ballot as a result of a signature campaign, legislators voted to have a counter-amendment designed to keep the current undemocratic structure, and not incidentally keep themselves in power.

I have not yet read the judge's decision. It is certain to be appealed, and will almost certainly end up in the Florida Supreme Court. I hope he is right. There is no question that Amendment 7 is a sneaky trick and an insult to democracy. Kudos to the League of Women Voters and the NAACP who brought this suit and are fighting for all of us.

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One Response to State Judge Strikes Amendment 7 From Fall Ballot

  1. Just me says:

    Michael:

    It is posts like this that are the reason I continue to check in on your blog on a daily basis. Although I am often moved to comment on other topics, your coverage of local and state politics is concise and informative. Although I still have a lot to learn about Amendments 5, 6, and 7, you have, as usual, provided enough here to peak my curiosity and compel me to conduct additional research. I get more out of this blog than I do out of the Miami Herald.

    Unfortunately our local news paper is only worth subscribing to for coverage of local sports (which still sucks), for the neighbors section, and for the open house real estate ads in the Sunday edition (I am a recreational real estate shopper, LOL).

    Digressing a bit, the Herald should focus more on truly local issues the way they do in the Neighbors section. If they did this I (and I suspect many others also) would expand my subscription from Sundays only to every day service. An example of what I am talking about can be illustrated in their local sports coverage. “Local sports” doesn’t really mean the Heat, Dolphins, Marlins, and Panthers. Those really aren’t “local” teams in today’s sports market. Yes, the Herald should include stories on those teams, but that alone is not enough to entice me to pick up the sports section. Stories about those teams are effectively niche national news. Yahoo news covers anything important that happens with those teams and I am aware of the story before it gets printed the next day. “Local sports,” as defined by me, and what is really missing from the Herald is coverage of the Canes (not just the football team, but basketball, baseball, track, the golf team, swimming and athletics in general), FIU sports, more than a page or two a week of high school sports coverage, and some more coverage of South Florida’s HUGE weekend warrior sports phenomenon.

    People are interested in these truly local stories. I know two guys, TWO, that played football at UM, and less than ten that played football/basketball/baseball in college anywhere. On the other hand, I know dozens, if not scores, of people that played other sports at a high level. One time collegiate swimmers, golfers, wrestlers, track team members, etc. are in abundance in South Florida. People like reading about what they like doing. Why doesn’t the Herald cover this? Same thing with the weekend warrior scene. S.Fla. has a race of some form (5k, 10k, triathlons of varying distances) virtually every weekend. I know that some weekends there are multiple such races. Race participants and their families would love to read about those events. Why not cover them with more than a tiny print business card sized section?

    The Neighbors section is the only section of the Herald that is anywhere near satisfying to read. The Herald should use this section of its paper as a model for the rest of the paper.

    Call it hyper-local coverage if you want, but this is what this humble commenter believes to be the best way to get people to read the newspaper anymore. The sooner that the newspapers pick up on this the better for them.

    (maybe I should be sending this as a letter to the editor instead of posting on your blog?)

    Thanks for keeping the blog up and running.

    “Just me”

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