Common Cause, Allies, Win Major Victory Over Gerrymandering in Florida

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  • Dale Eisman
State's Highest Court Orders Legislature to Draw New Congressional Boundaries

Florida’s highest court has delivered a major victory to Common Cause and other opponents of gerrymandering, tossing out a set of congressional districts drawn to protect Republican lawmakers and ordering the state legislature to fashion new districts.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling today means that Floridians will vote next year in new congressional districts. The justices said the Florida Legislature again violated the state constitution’s ban on partisan gerrymandering when it adjusted Florida’s Congressional districts in 2014. Voters passed the Fair Districts Amendments by ballot initiative in 2010.

Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and several Florida voters successfully sued the Florida Legislature last year on the grounds that the Congressional maps legislators drew after the 2010 census violated state constitutional provisions prohibiting partisan gerrymandering. Plaintiffs appealed the trial judge’s acceptance of nearly identical replacement districts. Today the court backed the plaintiffs, holding that the new districts also violate the Florida Constitution.

“This decision upholds the will of Florida voters who passed the Fair Districts Amendments to stop politicians from manipulating legislative districts for self-serving or partisan reasons,” said Peter Butzin, chair of Common Cause Florida. “Stopping the Legislature from unfairly gerrymandering districts sets an important precedent establishing that politicians in Tallahassee cannot undermine democracy without consequences.”

Trial testimony last year unearthed the use of a false name to submit a map nearly identical to one that had been drawn earlier by political consultants with close ties to legislators, along with evidence of secret strategy meetings between consultants and legislative staff. The trial court identified two districts as unconstitutional, including the 5th Congressional District, which snakes nearly 200 miles from Jacksonville to Orlando. This district captures and packs far flung African-American communities to limit those communities’ influence on surrounding districts.  

Plaintiffs have also begun litigation challenging the Legislature’s drawing of State Senate districts.

For more information on the Florida case, contact Peter Butzin at (850) 524-9946.

For additional background on Common Cause’s work to combat gerrymandering nationally, contact Kathay Feng, national redistricting director at 213 623-1216 or Dan Vicuna, national redistricting coordinator, at 571 218-6135.