After the first round of judicial wrangling over two allegedly gerrymandered congressional districts, a Florida judge ordered on July 10th 2014 that the Florida fifth and tenth districts be sent back to the drawing board. The dispute arose from the Florida House of Representative’s mandated redrawing of the state’s congressional districts under amendments to Florida’s constitution passed during the 2010 election cycle. The amendments were intended to ensure that legislative districts were drawn cohesively and without favoring any political party. The Republican controlled state legislature interpreted “cohesive” as a mandate to pack African American voters into one district. The first redrawing of Florida’s fifth district, seemingly drafted in the likeness of a Burmese Python, slithered from the northern tip of Orange County along the college town of Gainesville all the way to the Jacksonville city limits. African American Congresswoman, Corrine Brown (D), holds the congressional seat and the district contained a plurality of African American voters prior to redistricting.
As a result of the redistricting proposal, African American voters would have become the majority population in the district after draining Black voters from Florida’s seventh district. Judge Lewis of Florida’s second circuit noted that President Obama would have failed to win a majority of voters in the seventh district during the 2008 election as a result of this packing. Lewis termed the redistricting “a mockery” of Florida’s political process and ordered that the maps be redrawn immediately. And they have.
Yet, lawyers for the plaintiffs rebuked the Florida legislature’s hasty efforts to remedy the situation, which indicates that Florida’s latest politically charged legal battle will not be resolved easily. State legislators insist that they conformed to each and every word of the court’s order, but the plaintiffs point to the similarity of potential election outcomes. Judge Lewis approved the second version of the district on August 22nd and the plaintiffs plan to appeal.