Florida is the only state to outlaw partisan gerrymandering while leaving the redistricting process in the hands of partisan legislators rather than creating an independent commission. And after three years of litigation and four months of attempts to draw new legislative and congressional maps, local Republicans and Democrats have reached the conclusion that the state’s unique system of redistricting cannot go on. Democratic legislators, inspired by a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling reaffirming the legality of independent redistricting commissions, hope to win Republican support for an independent commission to redraw district boundaries in Florida. And after months of redistricting chaos, some Republicans have hinted that they could get on board.
Republicans could also prepare for an effort in 2017 to change or undo an amendment to the state constitution, added in 2010, outlawing partisan gerrymandering. Every 20 years, Florida allows for a Constitutional Revision Commission, which can choose to put its own constitutional amendments on the next statewide ballot. The commission’s next session is in 2017, and most of its members are selected by the governor or legislators. A Republican-stacked Constitutional Revision Commission could put the gerrymandering ban back on the 2018 ballot to see if voters will strike it down.
Efforts to promote either path are in their early stages, but both sides are motivated to change the status quo. The extended redistricting battle has cost taxpayers $11 million, according to the Miami Herald.
“How many special sessions have we had? This is preposterous, in that this is just a matter of style, not substance,” said Democratic state Rep. Dwight Dudley, in an interview with National Journal. (The answer to his rhetorical question: four special sessions, as of October.)