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.