What happened after the FairDistricts Amendments were passed?On November 2, 2010 sixty-three percent of the voters changed history by voting YES to put new constitutional limits on the way legislators are permitted to draw Congressional, State House and State Senate lines. Tallahassee politicians had fought long and hard against the FairDistricts Amendments and their opposition to these new restrictions did not end when the votes were counted.
- When it became apparent that the FairDistricts Amendments had passed, in the middle of the night two Members of Congress filed a Federal Court lawsuit claiming that the Amendments were unconstitutional. The Florida House quickly joined that suit. The FairDistricts coalition fought the lawsuit and won at the trial and appellate levels.
- Governor Charlie Crist asked the United States Department of Justice to “pre-clear” the amendments – a process required before the new rules could be implemented. Within two days of taking office, new Governor Rick Scott withdrew the state’s request for pre-clearance. He only reinstated it after the FairDistricts coalition sued to force him to re-submit the request. The Justice Department promptly approved the amendments – ruling that they did not violate the Voting Rights Act.
- Once it was clear that the new rules for redistricting were here to stay, the Legislature hatched a plan to delay the maps and to make it look like they were complying while they ignored the will of the people and drew districts to favor themselves. They held a listening tour with 26 meetings all over the state. They asked citizens to come and tell them what sort of districts they wanted the Legislature to draw. Members of the FairDistricts coalition and scores of other citizens told the legislators: (1) we want you to follow the FairDistricts amendments, (2) we want you to speed up the map drawing process, and (3) we want you to show us your maps so we can have a reasonable opportunity to comment on them.
- But the Legislature did not speed up the process and did not produce any maps for citizen comment (and made no comment themselves) until months after the “listening tour” had concluded. And while making a show of complying with the amendments, the Tallahassee politicians did everything they could to avoid applying the FairDistricts rules.
- Finally, just before the Holidays in 2011, in Tallahassee, at their last committee meetings of the year, legislators revealed the maps they were advancing. And at the end of January 2012, they passed new maps for Congressional districts as well as state House and Senate districts.
Did the maps comply with the FairDistricts rules?While the map for the state House best complied with the FairDistricts amendments, none of the maps were fully compliant. So members of the FairDistricts Coalition challenged the maps in court.
The House and Senate maps were first brought to the Florida Supreme Court for an initial “facial” review. The FairDistricts coalition challenged the maps in that proceeding.
- The House map appeared to be the most compliant of the three maps and the Court upheld it.
- At the urging of the FairDistricts coalition, the Supreme Court found that the Senate map had been drawn to favor incumbents -- it “was rife with improper intent”. The Court ordered the legislature to redraw it.
- The legislature redrew the Senate map but it still does not fully comply with the FairDistricts rules. So although the map was used in the 2012 elections, there is still great opportunity for improvement in 2014 and beyond. Members of the FairDistricts coalition have sued in Tallahassee to bring the Senate districts into compliance. That suit is pending.
The Congressional map did not get an automatic facial review in the Florida Supreme Court. Because that map does not comply with the FairDistricts reforms, the Coalition filed suit to challenge the Congressional map in a Tallahassee state trial court – but as coalition members had predicted, the Legislature ran out the clock and the case did not conclude in time to change the map for the 2012 elections. The coalition is asking the court to redraw the Congressional map and bring it into compliance with the FairDistricts standards. So there is great opportunity to change the map and create more fairness in Congressional districts for 2014 and beyond.