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Amendments 5 & 6 will Strengthen Minority Voting Rights

By: Bishop Victor T. Curry,
President, Miami-Dade County Branch, N.A.A.C.P.

SOUTH FLORIDA – There are a lot of important choices in front of voters this year, but none more important than approving Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6. The Amendments will determine Florida’s future for decades to come.

Every 10 years, the census provides a new snapshot of our country, including a picture of the growth and geographical shifts in population. As a result, state legislative and congressional districts must be redrawn. This redistricting process has been an opportunity for political mischief – by whichever political party has been in charge.

Presently, Tallahassee politicians redraw legislative and congressional district lines with no rules to follow, and to favor themselves or to give an incumbent politician “pal” or political party an unfair advantage. District lines are not drawn with regard for what’s best for Florida voters – certainly not what’s best for minority voters. The districts the politicians have drawn divide communities and reduce minority voting power.

Amendments 5 and 6 will impose rules that the politicians must follow when they redraw congressional and legislative district lines in 2012. If the Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6 are approved, politicians will be prohibited from drawing district lines “with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice.”

Some incumbent politicians who do not want rules for redistricting are opposing the Amendments and resorting to scare tactics. They claim that the Amendments will “dismantle the progress that we have made to ensure equal voting rights for all.” Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no retreat from the federal Voting Rights Act. It remains one of the great accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement. If the Fair Districts Amendments are approved, the rights that black and Hispanic voters now have under the Voting Rights Act to elect candidates of their choice will still be in effect and the amendments will strengthen them by placing strong language permanently into the Florida Constitution.

FairDistricts Amendments 5 and 6 prohibit drawing districts to diminish the ability of minority voters to elect representatives of their choice. That is a guarantee that only applies in limited circumstances in Florida today. In short, Amendments 5 and 6 will create rules so politicians can never again use redistricting to reduce representation of Black and Hispanic voters. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against Congressional Districts that used race to construct odd shaped districts where challenged in North Carolina and Louisiana and as a result two Black Representatives are no longer in Congress. Amendments 5 and 6 will enable the struggle to maximize the power of minority votes to be carried to the Florida Supreme Court by the NAACP and our allies.

The current system benefits incumbent politicians or their chosen favorites who are assured safe seats and non-competitive elections. But this system also silences the voices of minority voters. The NAACP in Florida strongly supports Fair Districts Amendments 5 & 6 as they will put voters, not the politicians, back in charge. With the passage of Amendments 5 and 6, the voices of all Florida Voters will be heard equally and minority rights protected by the Florida Constitutions.

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