TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A proposed constitutional amendment was
struck from the ballot Thursday by a Leon County circuit judge who
called it misleading and confusing.
Circuit Judge James Shelfer said it took him three days to grasp
the purported meaning of Amendment 7 and that he didn't believe the
average voter would be able to understand it during a few minutes
in the voting booth.
The amendment would give the Legislature greater influence in
the redistricting process.
Attorneys for the Secretary of State and Legislature will appeal
Shelfer's decision, which will eventually be decided by the Florida
Shelfer, who ruled from the bench to expedite the issue through
the state's court system, said he viewed the amendment's summary
language as a clear attempt to conceal its true impact.
"This amendment is nothing if not deceptive," said Ron Meyer,
attorney for the plaintiffs. "The court was saying, here he is a
lawyer and judge who had difficulty parsing through it."
George Meros, a lawyer for the Florida House, argued that
Amendment 7 provided additional standards, to those that districts
be connected by land or be contiguous.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate as an
independent, joined in the suit brought by the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, the Florida League of Women
Voters and a Hispanic advocacy group. They argued Amendment 7 would
nullify anti-gerrymandering measures and give the legislative
majority free rein to do as it pleases when redrawing districts.
Republicans hold a clear majority in the Florida Senate and House.
But opposition to Amendment 7 was bipartisan.
Other plaintiffs included former state Comptroller Bob Milligan
and Nathaniel Reed, an environmentalist who served as an assistant
interior secretary in the administrations of GOP Presidents Richard
Nixon and Gerald Ford. Both are Republicans.
Former Democratic governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, Milligan
and Reed serve as honorary co-chairmen of Fair Districts Florida,
which obtained more than 600,000 signatures required to put each of
the anti-gerrymandering initiatives on the ballot.