A redistricting battle that has gripped Florida for more than a year could force Republican leaders to redraw the state’s political boundaries just months ahead of the midterm elections. Several of the state’s Republican-drawn congressional districts – which one political scientist described as the most skewed he has ever studied – have come under attack by voting rights groups that allege the maps unfairly favor GOP candidates. That coalition, led by the League of Women’s Voters, has argued that Republican legislators and staffers collaborated with political consultants to create the maps, which were approved by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011. The case is being heard now in Leon County Circuit Court after the League filed a lawsuit alleging that the districts violate Florida’s “Fair Districts” law, which was approved by more than 60 percent of voters in 2010. If the lawsuit succeeds, the borders will have to be redrawn before the midterm elections this fall.
The trial is a culmination of a years-long battle over Florida’s political map, bringing in more than 30 current and former legislators as potential witnesses. Florida is one of the few states to apply rules to its congressional redistricting process, said Michael McDonald, a professor of politics at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Brookings Institute.
McDonald said it has the potential to reshape redistricting decisions across the country, as well as the party balance in the state legislature. “If it rules in favor of the plaintiffs, you’re talking about a potential four-seat swing to Democrats. That’s probably not enough for majority but it would make things more uncomfortable for Republicans,” he said.