Who Draws the District Lines and when do they do it?
The Florida Legislature is responsible for drawing the state legislative and Congressional districts. While the official redistricting process in Florida begins in 2021 with legislative committee meetings and public hearings, the maps will be approved during the 2022 legislative session.
Criteria for State Legislative and Congressional Districts
The FairDistricts Amendments (passed in 2010) established constitutional requirements for the Legislature to follow when drawing state legislative and Congressional districts. If the rules are not followed, there are grounds for a legal challenge.
Tier 1 criteria:
- No apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent – no partisan gerrymandering; and
- Districts shall not be drawn 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 – no racial gerrymandering.
Tier 2 criteria (must be followed unless doing so would conflict with the Tier one standards or federal law):
- Districts shall consist of contiguous territory;
- Districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable;
- Districts shall be compact; and
- District lines shall, where feasible, follow existing political and geographical boundaries.
The process of adopting a Redistricting Plan
- Shortly after the 2020 elections, the Florida House will appoint its Redistricting Committee and the Senate will appoint its Reapportionment Committee. Both will be fully staffed with mapping experts and necessary support staff. These committees are expected to begin meeting as soon as committee weeks begin.
- In the past, under normal circumstances, absent COVID, both committees have held public hearings in the spring and summer before the year that the maps are due to be passed. These are not required by law and – as any other public gathering would be – are subject to limitations imposed by the current pandemic.
- Maps are supposed to be drawn by committee staff or members and then approved by the committee (and any subcommittees). The House Redistricting Committee takes responsibility for the House map, and the Senate Reapportionment Committee for the Senate map. Both houses take responsibility for the Congressional map. All three maps must be approved by majorities of both houses.
- The Florida House and Senate maps are passed as Joint Resolutions and Florida Supreme Court is constitutionally required to review them for facially valid within 30 days.
- The Congressional map is passed as a regular bill and is subject to approval or veto by the governor according to the process used for any other bill.
- After Supreme Court review and signing by the governor, maps may be challenged in a trial court. Which court (state or federal) depends on the basis for the challenge.
What happens if the state legislature cannot agree on a legislative redistricting plan or if a court invalidates a plan?
If a redistricting plan fails to pass, or is rejected after court review, the constitution requires that the legislature hold a 15-day session to approve a new plan. If the second plan does not pass the court or if the legislature fails to approve a new plan during the 15 days, the court has 60 days to adopt an alternative plan.
What happens if the state legislature cannot agree on a Congressional redistricting plan or if the governor vetoes the plan?
There are no constitutional procedures to guide what happens if the governor vetoes the redistricting plan or if the legislature fails to agree on a Congressional plan. In the 2012 redistricting cycle, special sessions were held to try to enact a new plan after the original plan was invalidated in court for intentional partisan gerrymandering. When the legislature could not agree on a new plan, the courts selected a new plan.