A Florida Supreme Court ruling last week throwing out congressional maps means districts are less safe for incumbents and the political ground less sure for both major parties, analysts say. Sitting members of Congress don’t know how new districts will affect their re-election chances, and state lawmakers responsible for drawing the maps are unsure how to draft new ones for a third time. Democrats and Republicans will have to grapple with internal tensions brought by redistricting. “Some liken it to musical chairs with high stakes,” said Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political-science professor. The ruling was a sharp rebuke to Republican lawmakers in control of the Legislature, but it also brings to the forefront tension between squabbling factions of the Democratic Party.
Voters approved constitutional amendments known as Fair Districts in 2010 that prohibit the Legislature from drawing districts to favor or hurt incumbents, political parties or minority groups. Districts must also be contiguous and compact. In knocking down the maps, the court ruling cited the amendment and evidence that GOP consultants conspired with legislative leaders to pass maps maximizing Republican-leaning districts.
But for U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, Fair Districts clashes with the 1965 Voting Rights Act protecting districts such as hers. Her skinny District 5 snakes from Jacksonville to Orlando, drawing in parts of Gainesville along the way to include more black voters. It was one of eight districts cited by the ruling as needing to be redrawn by lawmakers.
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