The Florida Senate this week agreed with Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida that the Senate violated state constitutional anti-gerrymandering standards when it drew its 2012 district maps.
In 2010, Florida voters passed the Fair Districts Amendments, which prohibited the manipulation of congressional and state legislative districts for political advantage. Common Cause, the League, and several Florida voters were plaintiffs in a successful lawsuit against the Legislature challenging Florida’s congressional districts and in litigation challenging Florida Senate districts which resulted in today’s settlement.
“When Florida voters passed Amendments 5 and 6, they sent a clear message that they wanted to rein in partisan manipulation of legislative districts by the state legislators,” said Peter Butzin, chair of Common Cause Florida. “Today’s admission by the State Senate that it engaged in unconstitutional partisanship brings us one step closer to fair elections in 2016.”
Pamela Goodman, the President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, called it a “huge victory.”
“This was a battle that had to be fought,” Goodman said. “What happened in 2012 when the districts were drawn undercover with no intention of considering the best needs of a district and its voters was an egregious example of greed, influence and naked political ambition.”
Additional stipulations will result in a special session, most likely in October, at which the Legislature will re-draw Senate maps. The trial court will also retain jurisdiction in the case. Common Cause and the League will continue to ensure that the final plan abides by the constitutional requirements. In a remedial phase in which the court will examine replacement maps, the burden will shift to the Legislature to justify its decisions in drawing district boundaries.