Florida Supreme Court Rejects 'Gerrymandered' State Congressional Maps

Jul 9, 2015

Before and After: The image on the left depicts congressional district 5 before the proposed changes. The small yellow circles indicate the changes in Marion county.
Credit Select Committee on Redistricting

The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the state’s congressional districts, saying they’re unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling marks the second time the state’s congressional maps have been invalidated.

Update 4:02 p.m.  A lower court ruling last year led state lawmakers to redraw two districts that the court ruled had been gerrymandered. But that effort did not go far enough, the Supreme Court says. It ruled the Republican-controlled legislature has violated a constitutional amendment against gerrymandering.

Thursday’s ruling means new maps will have to be redrawn for most of the state’s congressional districts before the 2016 election cycle.

A coalition of groups that including the League of Women Voters challenged the maps, saying they didn't adhere to the amendment approved by voters that dictates political districts can't be drawn to benefit incumbents or political parties.

“We are so pleased with the Supreme Court decision,” said Pamela Goodman, President of the Florida League of Women Voters.  “They took Florida lawmakers to the woodshed as they should. We applaud this as a victory for Florida citizens, and more importantly, we expect the process that they are now mandated to do to be done in the most transparent way possible.”

The ruling means eight congressional districts along with some neighboring districts must be redrawn. The court is giving lawmakers 100 days to complete the new maps, and that means lawmakers will have to convene in a second special session outside the normal March through May legislative session.

“We are experienced on this,” said Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness. “We already have people obviously who have dealt with the mapping process. I don’t think it will be a problem to come up with new maps when it comes time.”

No official time table has been created yet. But the re-re-drawing of the maps will come as lawmakers prep for the early January start to the 2016 legislative session, which has been moved up in advance of the Presidential election cycle. The move means legislative committees will start preparation work for January in September—right around when new congressional maps are due.

--

A lower court ruling last year led state lawmakers to redraw two districts that the court ruled had been gerrymandered. But that effort did not go far enough, the Supreme Court says. It ruled the Republican-controlled legislature has violated a constitutional amendment against gerrymandering.

Thursday’s ruling means new maps will have to be redrawn for most of the state’s congressional districts before the 2016 election cycle.

A coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters challenged the maps, saying they didn't adhere to the amendment approved by voters that dictates political districts can't be drawn to benefit incumbents or political parties.