A state lawmaker and other plaintiffs have dismissed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the “Fair Districts” redistricting standards approved by Florida voters in 2010, according to a court document filed Friday. The lawsuit, filed by state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola Beach, Republican and Democratic activists and a group called the Conservative Coalition for Free Speech and Association, alleged that the Fair Districts standards, as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, violate free-speech and due-process rights. It also sought to bar Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s chief elections officer, from carrying out redistricting plans drawn under the Fair Districts process.
The document filed Friday did not detail reasons for dismissing the lawsuit, though the dismissal was “without prejudice” — a legal move that leaves open the possibility the plaintiffs could pursue the issue again in the future. The dismissal came after a federal judge last month rejected a similar case filed by Republican Party leaders from Walton and Pasco counties. The lawsuits were filed amid long-running legal and political battles about redrawing congressional and state Senate districts to meet the anti-gerrymandering requirements of the Fair Districts constitutional amendments.
Lawsuits by voting-rights groups have forced the revision of district lines. State lawmakers failed in two special legislative sessions to agree on new congressional and Senate districts, which will lead to courts resolving the issues. A key part of the congressional redistricting battle focused on whether Republican political operatives improperly played a behind-the-scenes role in the way current districts were drawn in 2012. That led legislative leaders in recent months to take steps to curb such activities. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit dismissed Friday argued, in part, that such steps limited First Amendment rights.