Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida jointly wrote two letters to the leadership of the Florida Legislature last week during the special session called to redraw the state’s congressional districts. Judge Terry Lewis ruled that current districts violate new state constitutional provisions forbidding partisanship to be a factor in the redrawing of lines and ordered the Legislature to draw a new map by August 15.
Highlighting the most troubling evidence about the redistricting process that Judge Lewis discussed in his opinion and held unconstitutional, Common Cause and the League made the following requests in the first letter about procedures for map drawing:
- Legislators and staff should --
* Preserve draft maps and all redistricting emails and texts; and
* Use official email accounts for all redistricting communications; and
* Avoid private methods of communication.
- Discussions among two or more legislators relating to redistricting should be held in a duly noticed meeting open to the public.
- No discussions regarding the subject of this Special Session should be held in areas not open to the public.
- All drafts of maps, requests sent to bill drafting, and other documentation relating to redistricting (including emails and text messages) should be treated as public records available for production upon request.
In a separate letter delivered to legislative leaders on Friday, both groups critiqued the Legislature’s first proposed map, which, as the Washington Post stated, “looks pretty familiar.” Contrasting the Legislature’s draft with the coalition map Common Cause and the League proposed, the letter states that
- The coalition’s proposed east-west 5thCongressional District --
* Provides African Americans the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice without packing them in a way that eliminates their ability to influence any other district
* Is more compact than the Legislature’s; and
* Allows six other districts to comply with the Florida Constitution in a way that the Legislature’s does not.
- Only two of the coalition’s districts are less compact and that is only to avoid weakening of minority voting rights, adhere to state boundaries, and to comply with equal population requirements.
- The coalition’s proposed 9th Congressional District is marginally less compact but limits map alterations and makes two other districts more compact.
The second letter concludes by asking the Legislature to draw the 5th Congressional District in an east-west rather than snaking north-south manner while allowing for the creation of a Central Florida district with increased minority voting strength. The coalition map is available here.
Issues: Voting and Elections