Central Florida’s congressional districts are essentially caught in a virtual tug-of-war between state lawmakers and the Florida Supreme Court. That was clear from the deliberations of lawmakers in a special redistricting session Tuesday, as several legislators bashed the court’s decision to throw out the previous maps and mandate the current Congressional District 5 running from Jacksonville to Orlando instead run horizontally from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. Republican legislators took particular issue with the court ordering the east-west district, which was favored by Democratic groups and the League of Women Voters, which brought the redistricting lawsuit. “If the Florida Supreme Court is basically drawng a map and they know that the map is drawn by partisan Democratic operatives . . how are the justices who do that complying with the constitution?” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
In its decision the court found that GOP political operatives colluded to submit maps favoring the Republican Party that were eventually passed by lawmakers. In throwing out the districts and sending lawmakers back to the drawing board for the third time, the court included suggestions and guidelines for the Legislature to follow to comply with the Fair Districts amendments passed by voters in 2010. The amendments prohibit lawmakers from drawing maps to favor or disfavor incumbents, political parties or minority groups, while drawing districts as compact and contiguous as possible.
Since District 5 was originally designed to allow black voters to choose a candidate of their choice, much of Central Florida’s black population is taken in by surrounding districts in a proposed “base map” developed by legislative staffers.