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Florida Supreme Court Rejects 'Gerrymandered' State Congressional Maps

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.
Select Committee on Redistricting
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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.

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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.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.
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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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