Florida Supreme Court Orders Historic Redistricting

In a very strong ruling, the Florida Supreme Court has ordered the state legislature to redraw eight congressional districts that were clearly gerrymandered to help Republicans. I’m sure it’s a total coincidence that the legislature was, and is, controlled by Republicans though.

In a precedent-setting ruling Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the state’s congressional districts drawn by the GOP-led Legislature and ordered a new map with eight districts redrawn in time for the 2016 election.

In the 5-2 ruling, with Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissenting, the court provided unprecedented and specific direction to the Legislature, such as redrawing the snake-shaped district of Congressional District 5, now held by Congresswoman Corrine Brown, in an east-west direction.

The ruling is likely to shake up Florida’s political landscape as incumbents face the prospect of a new set of boundary lines close to the 2016 election. Among the districts the court ordered redrawn are two in the Tampa Bay area: District 13, currently held by Republican David Jolly, and the 14th, held by Democrat Kathy Castor.

“This is a complete victory for the people of Florida who passed the Fair District amendment and sought fair representation where the Legislature didn’t pick their voters,”‘ said David King, lead attorney for the coalition of voter groups which brought the challenge. “The Supreme Court accepted every challenge we made and ordered the legislature to do it over.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Barbara Pariente said the court affirmed “the trial court’s factual findings and ultimate determination that the redistricting process and resulting map were tainted by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbents.”

But the court reversed the trial court’s order approving the Legislature’s revised redistricting plan “because we conclude that, as a result of legal errors, the trial court failed to give the proper effect to its finding of unconstitutional intent, which mandated a more meaningful remedy commensurate with the constitutional violations it found.”

More of this in other states, please. Ultimately, we must remove the task of redistricting from elected officials. The temptation is too great to rig things to their benefit, for both parties. Redistricting should be done only by non-partisan commissions made up of experts on demographics and other relevant fields.

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  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    This is clearly an unconstitutional act by the Florida Supreme Court. Without careful drawing of district lines, how can we ensure that only Real True Americans™ get elected?

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    This is clearly an unconstitutional act by the Florida Supreme Court. Without careful drawing of district lines, how can we ensure that only Real True Americans™ get elected?

  • Die Anyway

    It would be good to eliminate politically motivated gerrymandering. I live in District 13 so I looked up a map of it to see how wildly it was drawn. I was expecting little fingers here, narrow corridors there, or a long curling tail somewhere. Instead its a solid block of Pinellas County with the exception of the northern and southern tips. That southern tip is most of the city of St. Petersburg, which is included with Tampa in District 14. So I guess I’d need a lot more info to understand what was gerrymandered and why it favors the Republicans. For now, I’ll have to count on the FSC, which really is not all that trustworthy in other matters.

  • Die Anyway

    It would be good to eliminate politically motivated gerrymandering. I live in District 13 so I looked up a map of it to see how wildly it was drawn. I was expecting little fingers here, narrow corridors there, or a long curling tail somewhere. Instead its a solid block of Pinellas County with the exception of the northern and southern tips. That southern tip is most of the city of St. Petersburg, which is included with Tampa in District 14. So I guess I’d need a lot more info to understand what was gerrymandered and why it favors the Republicans. For now, I’ll have to count on the FSC, which really is not all that trustworthy in other matters.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Die Anyway, the idea is to stuff as many Democratic (read: urban) voters as possible into one district and arranging the rest so that they have about 54/46 Republican/Democrat split. Other States have managed that so effectively that even when 60% of the votes go Democratic, the Legislature (and Congressional representation) can be more than 2/3 Republican.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Die Anyway, the idea is to stuff as many Democratic (read: urban) voters as possible into one district and arranging the rest so that they have about 54/46 Republican/Democrat split. Other States have managed that so effectively that even when 60% of the votes go Democratic, the Legislature (and Congressional representation) can be more than 2/3 Republican.

  • The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    Actually, we need International observers at every point of the election process at this point. The US is worst than most of the Third World countries they monitor.

  • The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    Actually, we need International observers at every point of the election process at this point. The US is worst than most of the Third World countries they monitor.

  • eric

    @4: that’s a bit of an extreme comment. US voting closely follows independent polls, anonymous polls, etc.. and rarely (if ever) yields unexpectedly large numbers of popular votes for a given candidate. Also despite many attempts at finding some, there appears to be virtually no voter fraud. This isn’t like Iraq where Saddam Hussain would get 99% of the popular vote and we all know that’s a lie; the popular vote in the US always looks pretty much like a Dem/GOP split without about even numbers of independents joining both sides. In the last 190 years of tracking, no candidate for US President has *ever* received more than 62% of the popular vote. Reagan’s landslide win? He got 50.75% of the popular vote.

    The problem is, as DC Sessions says, that gerrymandering has been used to artificially divide the popular vote amongst congressional districts. With computers, maps, and demographic data, it is trivially easy today for a ruling party in a state to create a majority of state districts with a ‘statistically safe majority’ of one party, by creating a few ‘sacrifice’ districts where the opposing party has a supermajority.

    Virginia is a good example. In 2012 Obama won 52% of the popular vote (a statistically solid result). The state is very “purple” in terms of its overall population. But 8 out of its 11 Congressional districts have GOP representatives. Why? Because of the way the lines are drawn. We have no reason to think or even suspect that the 8-3 split is a result of vote rigging, fraud, or other election day shenanigans. That sort of cheating simply isn’t needed to explain the results: gerrymandeirng explains them quite well all on its own.

  • eric

    @4: that’s a bit of an extreme comment. US voting closely follows independent polls, anonymous polls, etc.. and rarely (if ever) yields unexpectedly large numbers of popular votes for a given candidate. Also despite many attempts at finding some, there appears to be virtually no voter fraud. This isn’t like Iraq where Saddam Hussain would get 99% of the popular vote and we all know that’s a lie; the popular vote in the US always looks pretty much like a Dem/GOP split without about even numbers of independents joining both sides. In the last 190 years of tracking, no candidate for US President has *ever* received more than 62% of the popular vote. Reagan’s landslide win? He got 50.75% of the popular vote.

    The problem is, as DC Sessions says, that gerrymandering has been used to artificially divide the popular vote amongst congressional districts. With computers, maps, and demographic data, it is trivially easy today for a ruling party in a state to create a majority of state districts with a ‘statistically safe majority’ of one party, by creating a few ‘sacrifice’ districts where the opposing party has a supermajority.

    Virginia is a good example. In 2012 Obama won 52% of the popular vote (a statistically solid result). The state is very “purple” in terms of its overall population. But 8 out of its 11 Congressional districts have GOP representatives. Why? Because of the way the lines are drawn. We have no reason to think or even suspect that the 8-3 split is a result of vote rigging, fraud, or other election day shenanigans. That sort of cheating simply isn’t needed to explain the results: gerrymandeirng explains them quite well all on its own.

  • naturalcynic

    eric:

    Your last paragraph illustrates the point that is being made about unfair elections. In this country it isn’t as ridiculous as in many third world locations, but there is substantial evidence of unrepresentative legislatures. Isn’t that enough to put our elections under outside scrutiny? and remedial action? That’s what the Florida SC is doing, but in many states, there has been no remedy.

  • naturalcynic

    eric:

    Your last paragraph illustrates the point that is being made about unfair elections. In this country it isn’t as ridiculous as in many third world locations, but there is substantial evidence of unrepresentative legislatures. Isn’t that enough to put our elections under outside scrutiny? and remedial action? That’s what the Florida SC is doing, but in many states, there has been no remedy.

  • whheydt

    It’s not like these shenanigans are *new* to US politics… I had occasion (this morning) to check on when the original Nast “Gerry-mander” (to give the original spelling) cartoon was published. It was in March 1812….over two hundred years ago, less than 40 years after independence was declared.

  • whheydt

    It’s not like these shenanigans are *new* to US politics… I had occasion (this morning) to check on when the original Nast “Gerry-mander” (to give the original spelling) cartoon was published. It was in March 1812….over two hundred years ago, less than 40 years after independence was declared.

  • NYC atheist

    I would love for someone to make a phone app game about gerrymandering, where you try to rig the map. I think it would really make it so much easier for people (myself included) get their heads around how it works.

  • NYC atheist

    I would love for someone to make a phone app game about gerrymandering, where you try to rig the map. I think it would really make it so much easier for people (myself included) get their heads around how it works.

  • johnhodges

    Gerrymandering and the Spoiler Effect are not necessary parts of democracy. There are other ways of doing democracy that don’t have these problems. Every district can be competitive, and every voter can be a “swing” voter.

    Gerrymandering is abolished by abolishing single-winner districts. If a district elects only one representative to the legislature, it makes a BIG difference where the district lines are drawn. If we use larger districts, where every district elects five representatives or more, distributed among the parties in proportion to voter support, where the lines are drawn makes no practical difference to the outcome. Proportional Representation greatly reduces “wasted votes”. Instead of having a maximum of 50% of voters having effective votes (necessary to elect a winner), with proportional representation 80%, 90%, 95% of voters can elect a winner. The more representatives per district, the higher the percentage can be. Alternative parties can challenge the top two much more easily; if they get 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats in the legislature. With Proportional Representation, there is no spoiler effect; there is no penalty for voting for small parties.

    For those elections that MUST have a single winner, such as for Mayor, Governor, or President, the Spoiler Effect is abolished by switching from plurality to another voting system that does not suffer from it. The simplest one is Approval voting: allow voters to vote “yes” or “no” for EACH candidate, saying “yes” to as many (or few) candidates as they wish. The candidate with the most “yes” votes wins.

    To learn more about Proportional Representation, see http://www.fairvote.org and the book REAL CHOICES, NEW VOICES, by Douglas J. Amy. For more on the advantages of Approval voting, see

    http://www.approvalvoting.org

  • johnhodges

    Gerrymandering and the Spoiler Effect are not necessary parts of democracy. There are other ways of doing democracy that don’t have these problems. Every district can be competitive, and every voter can be a “swing” voter.

    Gerrymandering is abolished by abolishing single-winner districts. If a district elects only one representative to the legislature, it makes a BIG difference where the district lines are drawn. If we use larger districts, where every district elects five representatives or more, distributed among the parties in proportion to voter support, where the lines are drawn makes no practical difference to the outcome. Proportional Representation greatly reduces “wasted votes”. Instead of having a maximum of 50% of voters having effective votes (necessary to elect a winner), with proportional representation 80%, 90%, 95% of voters can elect a winner. The more representatives per district, the higher the percentage can be. Alternative parties can challenge the top two much more easily; if they get 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats in the legislature. With Proportional Representation, there is no spoiler effect; there is no penalty for voting for small parties.

    For those elections that MUST have a single winner, such as for Mayor, Governor, or President, the Spoiler Effect is abolished by switching from plurality to another voting system that does not suffer from it. The simplest one is Approval voting: allow voters to vote “yes” or “no” for EACH candidate, saying “yes” to as many (or few) candidates as they wish. The candidate with the most “yes” votes wins.

    To learn more about Proportional Representation, see http://www.fairvote.org and the book REAL CHOICES, NEW VOICES, by Douglas J. Amy. For more on the advantages of Approval voting, see

    http://www.approvalvoting.org

  • Lady Mondegreen

    Further to johnhodges: William Poundstone’s Gaming the Vote offers a good look at voting systems and their inherent mathematical problems, as well.

  • Lady Mondegreen

    Further to johnhodges: William Poundstone’s Gaming the Vote offers a good look at voting systems and their inherent mathematical problems, as well.

  • Die Anyway

    re D.C.Sessions @ 3

    I suspected that lumping the St. Pete urban area with Tampa was a sacrificial move that allowed district 13 to be more Republican. It’s just that without a lot of studying, which I’m not prepared to do, it’s difficult to *see* the gerrymandering. As I mentioned above, the district follows the county borders, which, since this is a peninsula, are the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Except for that southern tip thing, it doesn’t *look* gerrymandered. That’s probably why the Republicans thought they could get away with it.

  • Die Anyway

    re D.C.Sessions @ 3

    I suspected that lumping the St. Pete urban area with Tampa was a sacrificial move that allowed district 13 to be more Republican. It’s just that without a lot of studying, which I’m not prepared to do, it’s difficult to *see* the gerrymandering. As I mentioned above, the district follows the county borders, which, since this is a peninsula, are the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Except for that southern tip thing, it doesn’t *look* gerrymandered. That’s probably why the Republicans thought they could get away with it.

  • JasonTD

    Ed,

    Something you should have mentioned (or dug a little more deeply to find it if you weren’t aware) is that long, snaking District 5 occupied by Corrine Brown (D) was specifically drawn to be a ‘majority minority’ district with a large African-American population. (It was Florida District 3 from 1993-2012 and had the same basic shape as the current District 5.)

    Corrine Brown has occupied that district since it was created that way in 1993 and has strongly opposed this court ruling, citing the Voting Rights Act, among other arguments.

    http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/rep-corrine-brown-calls-redistricting-ruling-seriously-flawed/2236752

    There’s a portion of the gerrymandering debate to be had as to how to deal with minority representation and compliance with (what is left of) the Voting Rights Act.

  • JasonTD

    Ed,

    Something you should have mentioned (or dug a little more deeply to find it if you weren’t aware) is that long, snaking District 5 occupied by Corrine Brown (D) was specifically drawn to be a ‘majority minority’ district with a large African-American population. (It was Florida District 3 from 1993-2012 and had the same basic shape as the current District 5.)

    Corrine Brown has occupied that district since it was created that way in 1993 and has strongly opposed this court ruling, citing the Voting Rights Act, among other arguments.

    http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/rep-corrine-brown-calls-redistricting-ruling-seriously-flawed/2236752

    There’s a portion of the gerrymandering debate to be had as to how to deal with minority representation and compliance with (what is left of) the Voting Rights Act.

  • dingojack

    Die Anyway – … and they would have too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!

    (Now git off’n my lawn, ya young whippersnappers).

    😀 Dingo

  • dingojack

    Die Anyway – … and they would have too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!

    (Now git off’n my lawn, ya young whippersnappers).

    😀 Dingo

  • Childermass

    Why do we even need a commission? Write an open-source computer program that uses standard geography information to automatically spit out districts given a series of priorities.

  • Childermass

    Why do we even need a commission? Write an open-source computer program that uses standard geography information to automatically spit out districts given a series of priorities.

  • dingojack

    Why worry? To hear Rhonda Herrington tell it, after the next (manufactured) hurricane season, the only voters in Florida will be Sodomite Pod-people from Trans-sexual Transylvania* anyway…

    @@

    Dingo

    ———

    * possibly just one of the many murderin’, rapin’, drug-smuggin’ parts of Mexico [one assumes the rest is OK – or so Trump’s maid Chiquita tells him between being forced to scrub the outside toilet with a toothbrush after visits of his black employees hired to make him look less racist friends (he means -friends)] @@

  • dingojack

    Why worry? To hear Rhonda Herrington tell it, after the next (manufactured) hurricane season, the only voters in Florida will be Sodomite Pod-people from Trans-sexual Transylvania* anyway…

    @@

    Dingo

    ———

    * possibly just one of the many murderin’, rapin’, drug-smuggin’ parts of Mexico [one assumes the rest is OK – or so Trump’s maid Chiquita tells him between being forced to scrub the outside toilet with a toothbrush after visits of his black employees hired to make him look less racist friends (he means -friends)] @@

  • Snoof

    Childermass: That’s why you need a commission. To establish the priorities and to make sure they’re not, “Party X gets N districts, party Y gets 1 district.”

  • Snoof

    Childermass: That’s why you need a commission. To establish the priorities and to make sure they’re not, “Party X gets N districts, party Y gets 1 district.”

  • eric

    Naturalcynic:

    there is substantial evidence of unrepresentative legislatures. Isn’t that enough to put our elections under outside scrutiny? and remedial action? That’s what the Florida SC is doing, but in many states, there has been no remedy.

    Frankly, no. I think what the Florida SC is doing is great and I support making each 10-year redistricting neutral rather than being controlled by the governing party. But I don’t see the point of having international observers at US elections because we are pretty sure that election-day, illegal actions such as voter coercion or double voting are relatively rare.

  • eric

    Naturalcynic:

    there is substantial evidence of unrepresentative legislatures. Isn’t that enough to put our elections under outside scrutiny? and remedial action? That’s what the Florida SC is doing, but in many states, there has been no remedy.

    Frankly, no. I think what the Florida SC is doing is great and I support making each 10-year redistricting neutral rather than being controlled by the governing party. But I don’t see the point of having international observers at US elections because we are pretty sure that election-day, illegal actions such as voter coercion or double voting are relatively rare.