Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Congressional Map (Updated)
Updated 3:05 p.m. | The Florida Supreme Court struck down a sizable portion of the state’s congressional map, throwing the 2016 elections into a state of disarray.
In a 5-2 decision Thursday, the court ruled the GOP-led redistricting process was “tainted” by partisanship and drawn to favor Republican incumbents. The Legislature has now been tasked with redrawing eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts within, as well as adjacent districts affected by the new lines. It must produce a new map within 100 days, a task that will call the legislative body back into a special session.
The justices said the Legislature must “redraw, on an expedited basis, Districts 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27 and all other districts affected by the redrawing.” The 5th District, the one at the center of the case, is held by Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown and is famous for its snakelike configuration.
Brown, whose majority-minority district sparked the court case, did not agree with the court’s decision and declined to comment on what a redraw might mean for her political future.
“The decision by the Florida Supreme Court is seriously flawed and entirely fails to take into consideration the rights of minority voters,” Brown said in a statement. “It also fails to recognize federal law, in that it did not incorporate the spirit of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights and clearly supersedes the contradictory standards set by the state’s Fair Districts requirements.”
Other members from the delegation were also reluctant to predict how this might impact the current partisan breakdown. Currently, Republicans represent 17 of the state’s 27 districts, even as registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the state.
“I think most people are just waiting to see how this develops,” said freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican representing a Miami-based district that could be significantly impacted by the decision.
In a brief interview with Roll Call in the Speaker’s Lobby, Curbelo said he’s not sweating the new lines, despite already being a top Democratic target in a district President Barack Obama carried twice.
“I’m confident in the work I’ve done here in my first six months, and I’m getting a great response in my community,” Curbelo said.
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, praised the decision and said it’s too soon to speculate what a new map will look like.
“The voters spoke very clearly in 2010 when 63 percent of them said we want to make sure we get rid of political gerrymandering in Florida,” she told Roll Call after votes, “and the Republicans in a stealthy and underhanded way deliberately violated Florida’s constitution.”
The decision was the end of a lengthy court battle over the Sunshine State’s congressional map, and it marked the first time the state’s Fair Districts Amendment was put to the test. Voters amended the state’s constitution in 2010, stipulating that no congressional districts could be drawn to favor a political party or incumbent.
“Presented in this case with a first-of-its-kind challenge under the Fair Districts Amendment, the trial court found that the Legislature’s 2012 congressional redistricting plan was drawn in violation of the Florida Constitution’s prohibition on partisan intent,” Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in the majority opinion. “We affirm that finding.”
After the Legislature redraws its map, the justices instructed the trial court to hold a hearing to either approve or disapprove the new map.
“This is a complete victory for the people of Florida who passed the Fair Districts Amendment,” said David King, the lead attorney for the coalition challenging the congressional map. “The court has made it abundantly clear that partisan gerrymandering will not be tolerated. We look forward to the legislature following the constitution and the directives of the court.”
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