Gerrymandering the boundaries of electoral districts means redesigning the boundaries of voting districts to favor a particular political party or elected official in office.
It has been around since the inception of the United States — as far back as 1788. The term “gerrymandering” was given to the practice after Eldridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts in 1812, became famous for his redrawing the state voting districts for political gain.
Florida, like almost all other states, has had its voting districts redrawn, gerrymandered, to favor the particular political party in power. All states, following the every 10 year national census, must redraw their voting districts to adapt to the population growth and demographic changes.
Political gerrymandering became so ridiculous that Florida citizens took to the streets, obtained more than a sufficient number of signatures and had placed on the ballot in 2010 the Fair District Amendment. The amendment specifically prohibits drawing voting district boundaries to favor a particular political party and further guarantees that minority neighborhoods could not be divided so as to limit their political influence.
The League of Women Voters and Common Cause arguments before the court resulted in Florida’s Supreme Court, on July 9, ruling 5-2, that the congressional voting districts set by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2012 violated the state constitution, Article III: “districts shall not be drawn with the intent of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities…” as well as the provisions of the Fair District Amendment passed in 2010.
The Miami Herald reported that for the first time in Florida’s history, sitting legislators were called to testify in court where they admitted to routinely deleting redistricting records. A legislative staffer admitted giving a flash drive of maps to a GOP political operative two weeks before they became public.
Legislative leaders admitted they met secretly with their staff and political operatives to discuss strategy.
The court found evidence that the GOP consultants had orchestrated a “shadow” system to infiltrate the redistricting process resulting in the redraw of 2012. The court gave the Florida Legislature 100 days to re-redraw the boundaries of Districts 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 as well as any other districts effected by the redesign of the eight in question.
In Miami Dade, District 25 is represented by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, District 26 by Rep. Carlos Curbelo and District 27 by Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen. It should be noted that District 5 is represented by Democrat Corrine Brown whose district is included as one requiring a redrawing of boundaries.
Legislative leaders would love to find a way to delay the implementation of the court ruling by filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court extending the time to comply with the Florida court order so the current Florida members of the U.S. Congress could stay in place through the current election cycle. However the Florida Supreme Court was concerned that this might occur and included in their ruling a reference to their recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on this very subject.
What can happen if the court doesn’t agree with the redrawn map at the end of the 100 days? They can (1) send it back for reworking and order a primary election date delay to accommodate elected officials and those seeking the seats time to meet filing deadlines; (2) ask the public or other interested parties to submit maps for consideration, or (3) hire an expert to redraw the districts. A system that has worked in New York State.
No public hearings are planned as the 100- day court limit doesn’t give sufficient time to meet with the public. Do you want to participate in the process? Would you like to comment, make recommendations or submit your suggested map? Get on your computer, go to SelectCommitteeOnRedistricting@MyFlori daHouse.gov. Download “Florida Congressional Redistricting Suggestions” form. Follow instructions.
There will be no shortage of news on this subject on TV and in the press.
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