Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled congressional maps drawn by the Legislature following the 2010 census resulted in political gerrymandering, and thereby were unconstitutional. The justices ordered new districts be created within 100 days. This follows a ruling a year ago by Judge Terry P. Lewis that two of Florida’s congressional districts were unconstitutional and “made a mockery” of the voter-approved Fair Districts amendment, and thus had to be redrawn. I guess they’ll get it right eventually. The court ruled that lawmakers specifically must redraw eight of the state’s congressional districts, which will end up affecting all 27 of them in some way. Locally, this includes the 13th and 14th Districts, now held by Reps. David Jolly and Kathy Castor. The reshaping will threaten incumbents and possibly entice some challengers who otherwise might not have run for office (see Crist, Charlie). In other words, we might end up with some competitive races, which is what the Fair Districts amendment was designed to produce.
The League of Women Voters and other groups that challenged the redistricting are claiming victory, but they shouldn’t uncork any champagne yet. Another district ordered redrawn, the 5th, held by Rep. Corrine Brown, could put a stop to the whole process by invoking, of all things, the Voting Rights Act.
“This decision by the Florida Supreme Court is seriously flawed and entirely fails to take into consideration the rights of minority voters,” Brown said in a statement released after the court’s ruling. “Overturning the current District 5 map ignores the essential redistricting principle of maintaining communities of interest or minority access districts. Certainly, minority communities do not live in compact, cookie-cutter like neighborhoods, and excessive adherence to district ‘compactness,’ while ignoring the maintenance of minority access districts, fragments minority communities across the state.”