Many of our members have been asking us to explain what is happening with all the recent news about Florida’s redistricting and emergency sessions to make new maps. The Fair Districts Amendments and court victories have forced the legislature to make new Congressional and State Senate maps. This will make a big impact on the shape of the state’s political districts. Below is a summary of what’s going on.
The Florida Legislature’s Special Session on Congressional Redistricting Begins Today
On July 9, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the Florida Legislature’s Congressional map. The Court found that in drawing this map, the Florida Legislature violated the state constitutional ban against partisan political gerrymandering. The Court ordered changes to eight districts: 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 and “all other districts affected thereby.” The Court has given the Florida Legislature 100 days to redraw the map. In response, the Florida Legislature has called a Special Session to redraw the map. The Special Session will be held from August 10 to August 21, 2015.
We should be watching this session very closely. As the same bad actors that colluded to benefit incumbents and their party in power remain in control of the process showing that they cannot be trusted with drawing fair districts as the constitution requires.
Five years ago: On November 2, 2010, Florida voters approved Amendments 5 and 6 with over 63 percent of the vote. Those amendments, known as the Fair Districts Amendments, require the Florida Legislature to follow new state constitutional standards when drawing Congressional, Florida State Senate, and Florida State House districts.
Fair Districts Amendments deal with the following important principles to insure a fair representative process:
Partisan Political Gerrymandering: Specifically, the new standards ban the Florida Legislature from drawing districts with “the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent,” meaning, the Florida Legislature may not engage in partisan political gerrymandering. Tallahassee legislators in charge of drawing new districts after the 2010 census ignored these constitutional requirements.
Voting Rights of Racial and Language Minorities: The new standards also ban the Florida Legislature from drawing districts “with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice.”
Other standards: Finally, the new standards require the Florida Legislature to draw districts that are contiguous, compact and community based.
Fast forward to the present:
Congressional Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court struck down the Florida Legislature’s Congressional map calling for a new map to be redrawn in time for the 2016 elections. The Court has given the Florida Legislature 100 days to redraw the map. They have in turn presented a base map that alters the math in many of the current districts, impacting the future of several Congressmen and Congresswomen, who will be running in new redrawn districts a year from now. So stay tuned! It will not end here. Congresswoman Corrine Brown who´s district (an African American district) used to snake down from Jacksonville to Orlando will be drastically redrawn. She has already filed suit in an attempt to protect her current district. And…
Senate Redistricting: The State Senate settled a similar suit recently forcing it to redraw the State Senate maps as well: On July 28, 2015, the Florida Legislature settled a lawsuit challenging its State Senate map. In the settlement, the Florida Legislature admitted that its State Senate map was drawn to favor incumbents and Republicans. The Florida Legislature agreed to hold a Special Session on October 19 to November 6, 2015 to redraw this map
So the redistricting drama continues as the party in control of the legislature uses all its power to position itself in an unfair advantage. We need to remain alert and engaged to insure our communities are not hurt by this process. Redistricting matters.
This Is Important Now:
“Domino Effect”: While only eight Congressional districts are required to be changed, others may be affected. It’s hard to imagine how this will not affect most of the other districts in the state.
The Special Session to Redraw Congressional Districts begins TODAY.
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For more information or to try redistricting options check out the following links:
Base Districts that will be proposed today in Tallahassee: MCIMAPS
Florida Redistricting, My District Builder: http://www.floridaredistricting.org/
Florida Redistricting History and Cases: http://redistricting.lls.edu/cases-FL.php#FL
These changes were spearheaded by the hardworking efforts of people at Fair Districts. You can get more information on Fair Districts at: https://www.fairdistrictsnow.org/home