Since 2008, Florida has exhibited the political equivalent of a split personality, with a Democratic president twice winning the state even as Republicans racked up large majorities in the Legislature and congressional delegation. Among the explanations for the state’s alternating political personas: Experts say it is one of the most gerrymandered in the nation, with an array of oddly shaped political districts that — evidence now shows — often were designed to maximize partisan advantage. Now two blockbuster court cases — and a pair of constitutional amendments that paved the way for them — are earning Florida a new reputation as a state on the leading edge of efforts to rein in political gamesmanship in drawing legislative districts.
Following a string of victories by voting rights groups seeking to enforce provisions in the state constitution mandating compact districts that are not drawn to favor political parties or incumbents, Florida’s anti-gerrymandering campaign increasingly looks like one of the more successful in the nation.
Supporters of the reforms say they are holding off on making any final judgments until the Legislature redraws congressional and state Senate districts during two special sessions that were precipitated by a Florida Supreme Court ruling last month.
But after years of battling at the ballot box and in court, members of the Fair Districts coalition are hopeful that their efforts will finally pay off. “It really is history in the making,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, one of the main groups behind the campaign.