The Florida Supreme Court took a wrecking ball to Florida’s political landscape Thursday, throwing out the state’s carefully crafted congressional districts drawn by the GOP-led Legislature and ordering a new map within 100 days. In the historic 5-2 ruling, the court not only ruled the maps were the product of an unconstitutional political gerrymandering, it signaled its deep distrust of lawmakers and provided detailed instructions on how to repair the flawed map in time for the 2016 election. “This is a complete victory for the people of Florida who passed the Fair District amendment and sought fair representation where the Legislature didn’t pick their voters,” said David King, lead attorney for the League of Women Voters and the coalition of voter groups which brought the challenge. “The Supreme Court accepted every challenge we made and ordered the Legislature to do it over.” The new maps are likely to reconfigure nearly all of the state’s 27 congressional districts, open the door to new candidates, and threaten incumbents, who will now face a new set of boundary lines and constituents close to the 2016 election.
The most significant change came in the North Florida district held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville. The court ordered District 5, originally drawn by a federal court in 1992 and which extends from Jacksonville to Orlando, must be redrawn in an east-west direction, potentially making room for a minority-access district in the Orlando area.
The court also ordered revisions to South Florida Districts 25, 26 and 27, currently held by Republican U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. In the Tampa Bay area, the court ordered the redrawing of District 13, currently held by Republican David Jolly, and the 14th, held by Democrat Kathy Castor.
Writing for the majority, Justice Barbara Pariente said the court affirmed “the trial court’s factual findings and ultimate determination that the redistricting process and resulting map were ‘taint(ed)’ by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbents.”