Redistricting in Florida
|Deadline:||June 22, 2012|
|Total Seats to be Drawn|
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- 1 Process
- 2 Leadership
- 3 Census results
- 4 Congressional Maps
- 4.1 13th District
- 4.2 Increase in Hispanic population
- 4.3 Legislation
- 4.4 Gerrymandering
- 4.5 Legislature to disregard incumbent residence
- 4.6 Meetings generate controversy
- 4.7 Activists push for a faster process
- 5 Legislative Maps
- 6 Drafting and approval
- 6.1 Senate, House committees move forward with draft maps
- 6.2 Lawmakers prepare for special session
- 6.3 Session begins, committees pass Senate-drawn maps
- 6.4 Senate approves US House and Senate maps
- 6.5 House to vote on chamber maps
- 6.6 Maps given final legislative approval
- 6.7 Congressional map signed into law
- 6.8 Senate begins redrawing chamber map
- 6.9 New Senate map approved
- 6.10 Supreme Court review of legislative maps
- 6.11 Revised map upheld by Supreme Court
- 7 Legal Issues
- 8 Ballot measures
- 9 Lawsuit against Amendment 6
- 10 Pre-clearance for Amendment 5 and 6
- 11 Partisan Registration by District
- 12 Timeline
- 13 History
- 14 Constitutional explanation
- 15 See also
- 16 External links
- 17 References
Florida gained two seats from the reapportionment after the 2010 census. The state population increased by 2.8 million residents, or 17.6 percent. According to a report in the Washington Post political blog "The Fix," Florida was home to one of the top ten redistricting battles in the nation, ranking fourth on the list. Illinois was ranked first.
The Florida Legislature is responsible for redistricting. For state legislative redistricting, the legislature must first pass a joint resolution, which is then sent to the Supreme Court for review. If it is accepted, the plan becomes law. If it is not, the legislature holds 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 design their own plan.
For congressional redistricting, a bill is passed in the usual manner. The Governor of Florida may sign or veto the legislation.
Florida is 1 of 16 states that must receive some approval from the U.S. Justice Department via the Voting Rights Act. They must receive pre-clearance on the counties of Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe. Unlike the rest of the South, Florida's pre-clearance counties did not originate due to disenfranchised African-American voters, but rather because of Hispanic voters.
Chairman of the Senate committee on redistricting Sen. Don Gaetz said that the process would be open. Due to public meetings and the availability of redistricting software, he explained, "We’ll have 19 million auditors of the reapportionment process.”
The members of the 2011 committee were as follows:
Fasano resigns committee
Sen. Mike Fasano resigned from the redistricting committee on January 3, 2011, saying, "I just don't want any perception that I'm on the committee of reapportionment or redistricting for the purpose of drawing a district that would benefit me. Perception is everything."
Controversy over Hispanic district remarks
On October 20, 2011, Rep. Luis Garcia (D) sent a letter to legislative leaders, demanding that Senator and redistricting committee member Alan Hays (R) apologize for his remarks on Hispanic districts in Central Florida. In addition, Rep. Janet Cruz (D) issued a similar letter calling for Hays' resignation. Hays came under fire after suggesting that any proposed Hispanic district ought to be vetted to ensure that its population was not inflated due to illegal immigrants. Opponents were concerned that this approach would be used to disenfranchise Hispanic residents in Central Florida, most of which, argued Garcia, were natural-born US citizens of Puerto Rican descent. Census figures typically undercount illegal immigrants since many refuse to fill out census forms.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, while announcing committee appointments in early December 2010, stated he would be delaying appointments to the redistricting commission until 2011 while staff analyzed the impact of Amendments 5 & 6. In a memo Cannon said, “Because we are still developing the House’s redistricting software, analyzing the recently-enacted constitutional amendments, and building a redistricting timeline, I have decided to delay appointments to the redistricting committees until 2011."
On April 8, 2011, Cannon sent out a memo to members of the House regarding their interest in serving on the committee. Members were announced on April 18. Democrats were immediately critical of their representation on the committee, which did not include Democratic leader Perry Thurston. Democrats were outnumbered two to one, making them less influential. While Cannon's office said that Thurston did not apply to be on the committee, Thurston was able to produce documentation that he had written to Cannon the previous November, requesting to be on the committee and calling it his "first choice" of committees.
The members of the committee were as follows:
The schedule of public hearings can be found on the Florida redistricting webpage. The first meeting was scheduled for June 20 in the State Capitol. A series of 26 public hearings took place throughout the state and concluded on August 31 with a meeting in Clewiston. Audio and video of the meetings can be found here. Until November 1, 2011, the public could also submit their own maps online. At the close of the submission period, 153 maps had been submitted.
On March 16, 2011, the Census Bureau shipped Florida's local census data to the governor and legislative leaders. This data was used to guide redistricting for state and local offices. The data was publicly available for download. New target district populations were 696,345 for Congressional districts, 470,033 for state Senate districts, and 156,678 for House districts.
City/County population changes
These tables show the change in population in the five largest cities and counties in Florida from 2000-2010.
Congressional MapsSince Florida was to gain two additional seats, speculation began as to how these districts would be drawn. Each district had to have approximately 700,000 residents. The website Redistricting the Nation, run by software firm Azavea, ranked Florida's congressional districts among the least compact in the nation. Azavea pointed out that compactness does not necessarily equal fairness, but argued that it is important:
"A number of scholars have suggested that compactness measures are best used not as absolute standards against which a single district’s shape is judged, but rather as a way to assess the relative merits of various proposed plans. Above all, compactness is most meaningful within the framework of an institutional redistricting process."
The existing 13th District, which included all of Sarasota, Hardee and DeSoto counties, along with most of Manatee and part of Charlotte, was estimated to have 750,000 residents, requiring it to be reduced in some manner. One idea was to split Manatee and Sarasota counties into two separate districts, where Manatee merged with the 11th and Sarasota remained in the 13th, picking up more of Charlotte and parts of Lee County.
Increase in Hispanic population
According to an analysis of census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a major reason why Florida gained two new seats was due to the increase in its Hispanic population. Leaders in the Latino community pushed to ensure equal representation.
John García, redistricting manager for the Latino Justice Program, stated, "There's no question the state gained congressional seats because of the growth of Latinos. The I-4 corridor represents the largest growth of Latinos in the entire state. We want to see a much more equitable representation of their voice in the Florida Legislature and look at the data to see if there could be a congressional district as well."
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) introduced a bill in January 2011 to remove a variety of exemptions on records of the legislative branch. This included drafts of redistricting proposals which, under current law, were not required to be made public until they were introduced as bills. His father, Sen. Don Gaetz (R), served as Chair of the Senate committee on redistricting.
Florida's 23rd Congressional district was featured in a Slate publication titled, "The Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts." There were 20 districts featured from across the country.
Legislature to disregard incumbent residence
Republican redistricting leaders in the House and Senate forswore meetings with Congressional lobbyists and ordered the residences of US Representatives to be excluded from draft maps. The decisions appear to be related to the recently approved "Fair Districts" amendments which prohibited partisanship and incumbent protection. Several US Reps also decided to forgo hiring redistricting lobbyists for the same reason. If lawmakers made good on their promises, several incumbents could be displaced under the state's new maps.
Meetings generate controversy
Speculation and criticism continued as Florida's public hearing schedule drew to a close. In July, lawmakers decided to delay the actual map-drawing process until after the public hearings had concluded. In addition, lawmakers were not permitted to give testimony at "listening tour" meetings. While this angered residents who wanted a chance to comment and engage legislators on actual proposed plans, other events further incited critics of the hearing process. Notably, House representative Chris Dorworth (R) was caught on local news cameras using Facebook during testimony and his personal Facebook page revealed that he had "liked" a local plastic surgery clinic during the hearing. Dorworth apologized for "multitasking" during the hearing, but insisted that he found the presentations insightful. At other meetings, residents have complained that lawmakers did not seem interested in their testimony.
Despite, or perhaps because of, these controversies, several of the meetings saw crowds numbering in the hundreds. While the anger over the map making process was visible, some suggested that partisanship, rather than civic-mindedness, was driving opponents of the process.
Second round of hearings proposed
On September 22, Reapportionment Committee Chairman Don Gaetz said that legislators were considering a second round of public hearings following the release of redistricting proposals. Instead of touring the state, residents around the state could join hearings in Tallahassee via video conference. The possible plan came after the first round of hearings received criticism for presenting neither proposals nor testimony from legislators.
Activists push for a faster process
A coalition of organizations, including the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Florida, Democracia USA and Common Cause, sent a letter to lawmakers on August 10, urging them to accelerate the redistricting timetable. The target for the legislature to approve plans was January 13, but the DOJ and State Supreme Court also had to review the plans. The organizations argued that such late approval would confuse voters, allowing little time prior to elections. Speaker Dean Cannon (R) argued that the letter was politically motivated and contended that the constitution required the bill to be approved in 2012. Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich was also vocal in challenging the plan's timeline, stating that lawmakers risked "expensive special legislative sessions" and "a chaotic election cycle."
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) argued that the delays were designed to hamper the review process. Even if the new maps were rejected by the Supreme Court or DOJ, argued Wasserman Shultz, time constraints on redrawing the maps could force the 2012 elections to be held in existing districts. Chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee Don Gaetz (R) called the suggestion a "partisan conspiracy theory."
Committee releases details for fall schedule
After intense criticism of the state’s redistricting timeline, Florida lawmakers announced a more detailed schedule for the creation of new districts. Redistricting Chair Sen. Don Gaetz (R) said the senate committee would begin considering redistricting legislation on December 5. Although it was too early to tell when a full review would occur, Gaetz said he wanted to avoid "surprises" and “gotcha” tactics. On September 19, the committee began reviewing public input on the new maps. The committee continued accepting public submissions until November 1.
Democrats upset by canceled meetings
House Democrats expressed concern over several canceled redistricting committee meetings. The meetings, originally scheduled for November 15 and 17, were canceled after House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford (R) asked for more time to prepare draft maps. The House committee aimed to have maps prepared by early December--a move Democrats worried would prevent a thorough public inspection of the maps. Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz (R) expressed confidence that the House would have maps prepared in time. The Senate, by contrast, acted more quickly, finishing guidelines for the redistricting staff to draw the maps and work toward a compromise on minority districts.
The state launched the website Florida Redistricting, which contained information on the process, as well as legislative and legal resources. As of February 27, 2011, the free "My District Builder" program included updated information on counties, voting districts, and census blocks. It allowed the public to redraw district lines with the same tools legislators used. A video on how to use the website was available on YouTube, as well as a March 6 video update. On March 25, updated 2010 census data was added to the site. J. Alex Kelly, staff director of the Florida House Redistricting Committee, explained, “If we can get an abundance of feedback, almost to the point we’re overwhelmed, we’ve succeeded."
House District 78 was featured in a St. Petersburg Times article due to its gerrymandered boundaries. Following the 2000 census, it was filled with so many Democrats that it hadn't held a general election for the seat since, because there has never been a challenger from any other party. Current Rep. Steven Perman called the district "incredibly oddly drawn," and said "I'm expecting the district will look like something different in 2012. And I'm OK with that."
Lawmakers may struggle to protect incumbents
Observers speculated that recent Republican gains in Florida might have made it difficult to avoid pairing GOP incumbents. As maps were drawn, Republican legislators were predicted to struggle to avoid drawing GOP incumbents into the same districts given their increased prevalence. Such pairings would arguably have forced fierce primary battles and allow Democrats to rebound from losses in 2010.
Panel concurs on panhandle
As Florida’s redistricting process moved forward, the Senate Redistricting Committee settled on its approach to panhandle redistricting. The plan, which had bipartisan support, was to split several panhandle counties north-south with horizontal district lines. Lawmakers debated the move in light of the "Fair Districts" amendments, deciding between county preservation and keeping local interests together. Proponents argued that the plan kept rural and urban interest separate, giving these interests their own representatives. Others worried that dividing too many counties might violate the provisions of the amendments. The committee used a citizen-drawn map, the "The Kelley Plan," as a starting point for the region.
Committee considers northeastern districts
On Monday, October 17, the lawmakers reviewed public suggestions for the state’s northeast. Both of the suggestions for the region paired incumbents and exemplified the difficulty lawmakers faced in redistricting the region.
Senate releases proposal
On November 28, the Florida Senate's Redistricting Committee released its drafts of new congressional and senatorial districts. Both plans appeared to preserve the status quo for existing incumbents. Under the US House plan, Florida's two new districts were positioned in Central Florida. These districts were drawn as Hispanic majority districts, pulling Democrat-friendly Hispanics from existing districts. The end result, it appears, is that existing Republican districts were shielded from rapid growth in the Hispanic community. A similar assessment seemed to hold for the State Senate districts. Democrats argued that maps simply ignored the Fair Districts Amendments. The House was expected to release its proposals the following week. Notably, the plan weakened the district of US Representative Allen West (R).
Drafting and approval
Senate, House committees move forward with draft maps
On December 6, the Florida Senate Redistricting Committee voted to introduce its US House and State Senate redistricting plans. Further committee consideration was expected ahead of a January 17 floor vote. The committee gathered public feedback on the draft plans via the internet--accumulating around 500 responses. Although the plan received praise for recognizing the growth of Hispanic communities, criticisms were leveled at redistricting for US House District 3, Polk County, and other areas around the state.
Meanwhile, the House Redistricting Committee released a range of draft maps for both the US House and Florida House. In total, seven congressional and five House plans were released. Although the plans increased the number of Democrat-majority districts, the plans also appeared to shore up existing GOP districts.
- An interactive map showing the committees’ proposals can be found here.
Lawmakers prepare for special session
Florida's redistricting process continued to move forward. The 2012 legislative session began on January 10. A final vote on the Senate-drawn plans was expected before January 20. US Rep. Allen West (R) emerged as a likely victim of redistricting.
- All the proposed maps can be found here.
Session begins, committees pass Senate-drawn maps
On Wednesday, January 11, the Florida State Senate's redistricting committee approved Senate and congressional maps for consideration by the full chamber. The plans were approved after a Democratic revision was rejected by the redistricting committee. The alternative plan drew controversy since it was drawn by the Democratic party--despite a redistricting amendment requiring nonpartisan maps. Democrats defended the proposal, arguing that Democratic committee members didn't have the resources to draft maps without party assistance.
Meanwhile, the House committee approved the Senate committee's chamber map and narrowed its own list of proposals. Democrats were critical of the remaining plans.
Senate approves US House and Senate maps
The Florida State Senate succeeded in getting largely bipartisan approval for its State Senate and US House redistricting plans. The plans passed on January 17 by a 34-6 margin. Opponents argued that the maps gained support by protecting incumbents, and thus violated the new redistricting amendments. However, redistricting committee chair and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz (R) defended the plans as the product of bipartisan cooperation. Gaetz also argued that opponents plans would have weakened minority influence districts. The map was expected to favor Republicans--the GOP could have theoretically held 21/27 seats after the 2012 elections. A legal challenge was expected. However, some Republican districts were softened in order to accommodate the state's demographic changes. As predicted, Allen West was among those weakened. The plans proceeded to the House for votes. These votes also addressed House redistricting.
- An interactive version of the congressional map can be found here.
House to vote on chamber maps
Senators Gaetz & Haridopolos discuss the final redistricting maps.
On February 3, the state House Redistricting Committee approved a redistricting proposal for consideration by the full chamber. Proponents of the Fair Redistricting amendments attacked the plan, saying it unconstitutionally favored Republicans.
Maps given final legislative approval
On February 9, the Florida State Legislature gave final approval to the state's redistricting maps. The congressional plan moved to the Governor's desk, and the legislative plan moved to the state Supreme Court for approval. The congressional map, CS/SB 1174, was approved 80-37 in the House and 32-5 in the Senate. The legislative maps, CS/SJR 1176, were approved 80-37 in the House and 31-7 in the Senate.
- An interactive map of the new congressional districts can be found here.
- An interactive map of the new state House districts can be found here.
- An interactive map of the new state Senate districts can be found here.
Congressional map signed into law
On February 16, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) signed Florida's congressional redistricting map into law. A coalition of community and voting groups were expected to challenge the maps. Meanwhile, a bill was proposed shielding legislators from subpoena in cases like a redistricting challenge. It would protect lawmakers and their staff "in connection with any action taken or function performed in a legislative capacity." Opponents said the law was meant to hide the partisan motives behind the redistricting bill, but lawmakers said it was merely an attempt to clarify common law on when legislators may be compelled to testify. In other news, Congressman Allen West (R) planned to run in District 18 rather than District 22--West's district was weakened by the new redistricting plan. Also, per state law, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi formally requested a state Supreme Court review of the state's legislative redistricting plans.
Senate begins redrawing chamber map
The Florida State Legislature reconvened on March 14 to begin redrawing the state's Senate districts. The original Senate plan was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court. The Court found that eight districts had been drawn to favor incumbents and thus violated the state's legislative redistricting amendment. In addition, the court found that districts had been renumbered in order to allow select incumbents to serve longer terms. Florida has staggered Senate elections--half of its Senate seats are up for election every two years. Odd numbers are up in one election and evens in the next. However, because of redistricting, all 40 of the state's Senate seats were up for election in 2012. Twenty seats -- those usually up for election in 2012 -- would have four-year terms. The other 20 seats, those not due for an election until 2014, would only have two-years terms, preserving the staggered arrangement. However, by selectively swapping numbers, some lawmakers who had already served six years would have been up for another four-year term. Ordinarily, Florida's two-term limit restricts lawmakers to eight consecutive years in the Senate. In any case, lawmakers had to fairly renumber the seats and correct the eight offending districts. The Senate took the lead in redrawing the chamber plan with the House deferring to their decisions. The special session could last no more than 15 days. The revised plan had to be submitted to the court for evaluation.
New Senate map approved
On Tuesday, March 27, the Florida House of Representatives concurred with the Senate's chamber redistricting map. The House did not amend the map, instead deferring to a plan approved by the Senate on March 22. On March 10, the state's High Court rejected the original maps, finding eight districts unconstitutional and ruling that district numbers had been assigned as to favor particular incumbents over others. Ultimately, 24 districts were modified to accommodate the changes to the eight rejected by the court. The revised numbers were picked using bingo selector machines. The map moved to the Florida Supreme Court for review -- the Governor did not need to approve the plan. Under the Voting Rights Act, the plan also had to be approved by the US Department of Justice. Florida officials sent the plan to the DOJ for review on March 30.
Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich maintained her opposition to the plan, arguing that it violated the 2010 "Fair Districts" amendment. The revisions suggested that the revised plan might be slightly more friendly to Democratic candidates.
Supreme Court review of legislative maps
Under Florida law, the Florida Supreme Court was required to review the state's legislative redistricting maps. Following their approval by the legislature, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi formally requested review of the plans.
Oral arguments scheduled
Oral arguments in the Florida Supreme Court's review of the state's new legislative districts were scheduled for February 29th. Counsel for the state had 90 minutes to make arguments in favor of the House and Senate maps. The court denied opponents the opportunity to file alternative maps and requested the addresses of incumbent lawmakers.
Oral arguments heard
Under Florida law, the Florida Supreme Court is required to review the state's legislative redistricting maps. On February 29, the Court heard oral arguments in that review. This was the first time legislative maps had to conform to the "Fair Districts" amendment approved in 2010. As such, the court asked a range of questions intended to guide the court in interpreting the new law.
Attorneys for the state argued that the maps were drawn fairly, and that the lawmakers who drafted the maps did not know where incumbents lived. However, attorneys opposing the maps argued that the plan's pro-Republican bent spoke for itself. If the Court did mandate revisions, the legislature would have had to hold a special session. The regular session ended on March 9.
Supreme Court rejects Senate map
On March 10, the Florida Supreme Court issued a 234-page decision rejecting the state’s new Senate maps--approved by lawmakers on February 9. The decision also upheld the new state House districts and provided extensive interpretation of the state's 2010 redistricting reform amendment.
The Court found eight districts unconstitutional and also ruled that district numbers had been assigned as to favor particular incumbents over others. The Florida Constitution requires the Court to review legislative redistricting plans. If the Court finds a plan unconstitutional, the Governor must call a new session within five days to correct the district lines -- this session may last no longer than 15 days. The revised plan was again submitted to the court for evaluation.
A number of official responses to the decision were issued early on. House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford (R) issued a statement praising his colleagues and commending the court's affirmation of the House map. Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich (D) said the ruling validated her warnings about the fairness of the Senate maps.
- The full redistricting ruling can be found here.
Second round of oral arguments scheduled
On April 20, the Florida Supreme Court was set to hear oral arguments in its review of the revised State Senate maps. During the week of April 9, the Florida State Senate and redistricting activists battled in court filings. Opponents of the revised map argued that it still violated the state's "Fair Districts" amendment.
- Filings in the case can be found here.
Revised map upheld by Supreme Court
On April 27, the Florida Supreme Court approved the second draft of the state's Senate districts. The map was expected to benefit state Republicans. However, the court found that opponents of the plan had not demonstrated that the map had been drawn for partisan purposes as forbidden under the state's "fair districts" amendment.
DOJ approves redistricting maps
On April 30, the U.S. Department of Justice cleared Florida's redistricting maps for use in the 2012 elections. Also on April 30, a state court said that a lawsuit against Florida's congressional maps could move forward, but decided not to delay the 2012 elections while the case continued.
While redistricting related lawsuits have come to be expected, the addition of Amendments 5 & 6 led lawmakers to predict an increase in litigation during the 2011 cycle. To that end, the Senate increased its budget by over $9 million from the previous year in order to be prepared for the fights ahead. Senate President Mike Haridopolos explained “I let people know reapportionment costs a lot of money, and it will cost even more with Amendment 5 and 6. And we have to pay for it.” The House, meanwhile, did not raise its budget but rather tapped into a $30 million reserve of unspent funds from prior years. Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz said lawmakers spent nearly $10 million during the last redistricting cycle.
Maps approved, lawsuits follow
Following the Legislature's approval of redistricting maps on February 9, state Democrats immediately filed suit against the congressional map in state Circuit Court. Other community and advocacy groups planned to sue as soon as Governor Rick Scott (R) signed the maps. Both contended that the new districts violated the recently approved "fair districts" amendment. Republicans, however, maintained that plans fully complied with the new requirements. Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Don Gaetz (R) noted that even if the maps happened to favor Republicans, that doesn't prove (for the purposes of the amendment) that the maps were drawn with partisan intent.
- The Democratic Party's complaint can be downloaded here.
- A draft of the community groups' complaint can be found here.
Congressional plan to stand for 2012
On April 30, a state court said that a lawsuit against Florida's congressional maps could move forward, but decided not to delay the 2012 elections while the case continued.
Legal challenge to Senate districts
On September 4, 2012, a number of individuals and groups, including the League of Women Voters, filed a lawsuit contending that the Florida Legislature did not follow the Fair Districts amendment for 14 Senate districts in the state. League President Deirdre Macnab stated, "We feel very strongly that the voters in Florida put these very specific rules in place and the Legislature simply did not follow them."
The case will not be taken up until 2013 and thus will not impact the 2012 elections.
The following measures appeared on the 2010 Florida ballot pertaining to redistricting:
- Amended the practice of drawing legislative district boundaries in such ways that they establish "fairness," are "as equal in population as feasible" and use "city, county and geographical boundaries."
- Amended the practice of drawing congressional district boundaries in such ways that they establish "fairness," are "as equal in population as feasible" and use "city, county and geographical boundaries."
Impact of the redistricting amendments
If the amendments succeed in limiting gerrymandering in Florida, many Democrats believe the change would weaken the state's entrenched GOP majority. Republicans argue that their success is based on ideology not partisan districts. The impact of the amendments on Republicans could be sharply felt in the state's coastal communities. Several of these districts stretch along the coast, uniting coastal communities but dividing counties and municipalities. Since the amendments require that county and city lines are respected where possible, these districts may have to be re-drawn. However, local Republicans argue that these communities share common interests, interests that should be respected in redistricting. The legislators most likely to be affected include: US Rep. Allen West (R-22), State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-91), and State Reps. George Moraitis (R-91), Bill Hager (R-87), Pat Rooney (R-83), William Snyder (R-82), and Jeff Clemens (R-89).
Lawsuit against Amendment 6
U.S. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R) and Corrine Brown (D) challenged Amendment 6 in court, saying it violated the Voting Rights Act and "represents an impermissible effort by Florida to limit the discretion directly delegated by the United States Constitution to the Florida Legislature." They filed suit on November 3, 2010. Brown's district in Jacksonville was 50% black, while Diaz-Balart's district in Miami was 70% Hispanic.
On January 11, 2011, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) filed a motion asking the U.S. District Court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that it lacked jurisdiction in the case, citing Article I of the U.S. Constitution, based on the state's 11th Amendment immunity.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, along with the Florida State conference of NAACP branches and Democracia Ahora, joined the case as defendants. On March 1, five Democratic state legislators filed to join the lawsuit as defendants. This included state Sen. Arthenia Joyner and state Reps. Janet Cruz, Luis Garcia, Joseph Gibbons, and Perry Thurston. In a press release announcing the action, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said, “Florida Democrats will not sit back and allow the will of nearly 63% of Floridians to be frustrated or delayed by those who simply seek to deny Floridians fair elections in fair districts.”
Due to his involvement in the case, Roll Call named Diaz-Balart one of the ten most influential Congressmen in redistricting. Brown was criticized for siding with Diaz-Balart. Brown's oddly-shaped district benefited from racial considerations that might be curtailed under the new amendments.
According to House spokesperson Katie Betta, "The U.S. Constitution delegates authority to the state legislatures to draw congressional districts. The House believes its constitutional authority has been impeded by Amendment 6." As of January 27, Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) declined to join the lawsuit, but said the case should be heard before submitting the amendments for approval.
Criticism mostly came from Democrats, including Rep. Perry Thurston, who referred to it as an attempt to "thwart the will of the people," and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, who said that “clearly the Republicans are more concerned about saving their jobs rather than creating jobs for Floridians.”House Speaker Dean Cannon said he was waiting to hear from the House's legal team before deciding if he would challenge the legislative redistricting amendment as well.
Cost to taxpayers
Reporter Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel attempted to calculate how much taxpayer money had been spent by the House on legal bills for the Amendment 6 case, but was unable to receive an answer. Katie Betta, spokeswoman for House Speaker Cannon, stated, "We do not have a breakdown of fees for the Amendment 6 case." She was able to provide him with 47 pages of invoices showing that over $700,000 had been spent on all legal work related to redistricting as of February 10, 2011. State Rep. Scott Randolph (D) twice requested similar records, but was denied. Cannon argued that releasing the records would reveal the state's legal strategy in the case.
District Court upholds, appeal promised
On Friday, September 9, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro rejected a lawsuit filed by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart against Amendment 6. Publically, Brown and Diaz-Balart have argued that it would hinder the ability of minority voters to elect candidates of their choice. During oral arguments the previous week, their attorneys argued that the fair redistricting amendment unconstitutionally curtailed the legislature's authority under the Elections Clause and attempted to dictate election outcomes. However, in her 22-page opinion, Judge Ungaroo ultimately found that the amendment was a "valid regulation of the legislative process under the Elections Clause."
In reaction to the news, Brown said, "I am disappointed in the judge’s ruling. But this is step one. We’re going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court." Reports indicate that the Florida House spent an estimated $200,000 on legal fees challenging the law. The League of Women Voters and other groups urged the House to stop fighting the measure and draw maps in compliance with the amendments.
Amendment 6 was tied up in legal challenges since voters approved it on November 3, 2010. The Amendment established new guidelines for congressional redistricting in order to ensure fair districts that are "as equal in population as feasible" and use "city, county and geographical boundaries."
- The full decision can be found here.
Brown, Diaz-Balart, and State House file appeal
On September 29, the Florida House of Representatives announced that it would join the federal appeal of Amendment 6. US Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R) promised to appeal after a federal judge upheld Florida’s congressional redistricting amendment earlier in the month. The House drew controversy for joining the initial lawsuit and spending taxpayer dollars to fight an amendment that garnered more than 60% of the vote. Reports indicate that the Florida House spent an estimated $200,000 on legal fees challenging the law.
- The notice of appeal can be found here.
Arguments heard in appeal
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on January 10 in the appeal of Brown v. Browning. US Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R) argued that the US Constitution gave only state legislatures prerogative over the redistricting process.
11th Circuit upholds amendments
On January 31, a panel of judges from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Florida Amendment 6 which mandated nonpartisan congressional redistricting. The lawsuit, Brown v. Browning, was filed by US Reps. Corrine Brown (D) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R). Brown and Diaz-Balart argued that the US Constitution gives state legislatures alone prerogative over the redistricting process. The Florida House of Representatives intervened as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
- The full decision can be found here.
Pre-clearance for Amendment 5 and 6
Governor pulls request for pre-clearance
Following the House's involvement in the Amendment 6 legal challenge, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott confirmed that the governor had pulled a request for federal approval of Amendments 5 and 6. Scott told the news media, "One of the things that we're looking at is the amendments that were passed, how they're going to be implemented. We want to make sure that with regard to redistricting, it's fair, it's the right way of doing it. So it's something I'm clearly focused on."
Scott was accused by Democrats of ignoring the will of the voters, but was also criticized by some Republicans. One of them is state Senator Mike Fasano, who, while he did not support the amendments, stated, "I shared many of the concerns of others who opposed them. However, once the people voted and passed the amendments with more than the required 60 percent of the vote, it is my opinion that we as a state must move forward to allow them to become part of our constitution."
Pamela Goodman, president of Fair Districts Now and redistricting chairwoman of the Florida League of Women Voters responded to the Governors action, "We will do whatever it takes to see to it that the new standards are implemented. We will not allow our hard earned rights and the clear vote and voice of over 3 million Florida voters to be eviscerated by those intent on avoiding their constitutional duty to create fairly drawn districts."
On Thursday, February 3, 2011, supporters of Amendment 5 and Amendment 6, including the Florida chapters of the League of Women Voters and NAACP, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott for pulling the request for federal approval. Five residents of Monroe County were also enlisted as plaintiffs in the case since Monroe is one of the five Florida counties which requires federal pre-clearance. They were the only individual plaintiffs in the suit.
Former Florida Sen. Dan Gelber and current attorney for Fair Districts Now, supporters of the measures, said, "It's time to stop stonewalling. Governor Scott and Secretary Browning should not be abusing their power to frustrate the will of the 63 percent who voted for these reforms. The new standards must be sent to the Justice Department promptly to guarantee their implementation." Read the full text of the complaint.
In response to the lawsuit, Brian Hughes, the governor's spokesperson, said that the governor's actions did not delay redistricting in the state. Additionally, Hughes noted that the Florida State Legislature was months away from working on state redistricting and the governor was using the time to "have thoughtful consideration of the policy." Lawmakers could not begin work until census data for the state had been released.
However, Erika Wood, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, said she can see no reason why Florida would need to wait for Census data to submit the amendments for pre-clearance, stating, "In fact, the Code of Federal Regulations clearly states that 'changes affecting voting should be submitted as soon as possible after they become final.'"
Following their receipt of census data on March 16, Scott's office requested, and received, a delay on the suit until April 1. Charles Trippe, Jr., Scott's general counsel, wrote, “Defendants respectfully request an extension...because Defendants believe in good faith that this matter may be resolved in that time, obviating the need for any exercise of this Court’s jurisdiction.” Supporters of the lawsuit took this as a positive sign that Scott planned on submitting the amendments.
Legislature files for pre-clearance
Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon submitted Amendments 5 & 6 to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance on March 29. According to their press release, it was determined that the application submission should come from either the state Attorney General or the legislature, not the governor. Once the proper authority was established, they submitted the amendments.
The authors of the amendments, however, questioned the new submission, saying it "contains a number of statements that are clearly intended to undermine the intent" of the changes. Along with their one-page pre-clearance letter, Cannon and Haridopolos submitted 11 pages of their interpretation of the amendments. The GOP leaders said the original application did not take into account concerns that the amendments could hurt minority voting strength, while supporters disagreed.
Dan Gelber of Fair Districts Now said he would most likely file a comment with the Department of Justice. Election law expert Gerald Hebert said he also planned to file comments, stating, "What they're trying to do is get the Justice Department to approve their misinterpretations. The Justice Department won't do that -- they'll simply say they either approve or disapprove the amendments."
For his part, Gov. Scott said, "Despite pressure from special interest groups, I committed to Floridians that my review of the preclearance application for Amendments 5 and 6 would be thorough and complete. The action of legislative leaders today delivers on that promise."
The Legislature made all of the documents related to the submission available online.
US Department of Justice grants pre-clearance
After an extended political struggle over the pre-clearance of Florida's redistricting amendments, the Department of Justice signed off on the controversial measures. The DOJ concluded that the amendments did not violate the principles of the Voting Rights Act.
Partisan Registration by District
Congressional Districts in November 2010
|Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010|
|Congressional District||Republicans||Democrats||Unaffiliated||District Total||Party Advantage*||111th Congress||112th Congress|
|1 (Pensacola)||233,628||156,141||83,012||472,781||49.62% Republican|
|2 (Tallahassee)||155,065||239,032||61,172||455,269||54.15% Democratic|
|3 (Gainesville)||70,163||228,600||54,489||353,252||225.81% Democratic|
|4 (Northeast border)||199,989||175,116||81,048||456,153||14.20% Republican|
|5 (Middle Gulf)||257,162||223,720||133,020||613,902||14.95% Republican|
|6 (Ocala/Middleburg)||213,976||199,238||95,129||508,343||7.39% Republican|
|7 (St. Augustine/Daytona Beach)||218,256||190,843||121,840||530,939||14.36% Republican|
|8 (Orlando)||169,976||182,031||102,675||454,682||7.09% Democratic|
|9 (Clearwater)||190,188||164,374||115,387||469,949||15.70% Republican|
|10 (Palm Harbor/Seminole)||158,514||152,625||102,524||413,663||3.86% Republican|
|11 (Tampa)||89,428||191,198||77,861||358,487||113.80% Democratic|
|12 (Plant City/Winter Haven)||162,168||187,980||98,301||448,449||15.91% Democratic|
|13 (Sarasota)||218,787||166,703||100,373||485,863||31.24% Republican|
|14 (Fort Myers)||239,758||146,573||115,810||502,141||63.57% Republican|
|15 (Kissimmee)||201,576||187,387||112,487||501,450||7.57% Republican|
|16 (Port Charlotte)||203,207||187,949||112,395||503,551||8.12% Republican|
|17 (North Miami)||35,576||245,682||62,374||343,632||590.58% Democratic|
|18 (Miami)||126,670||126,481||91,878||345,029||0.15% Republican|
|19 (Coral Springs)||112,536||234,543||112,231||459,310||108.41% Democratic|
|20 (Fort Lauderdale)||104,986||206,919||93,413||405,318||97.09% Democratic|
|21 (Hialeah)||129,001||122,451||87,448||338,900||5.35% Republican|
|22 (Boca Raton)||172,758||173,386||115,769||461,913||0.36% Democratic|
|23 (Delray Beach/Belle Glade)||48,112||231,325||62,200||341,637||380.80% Democratic|
|24 (Titusville)||193,865||179,342||114,655||487,862||8.10% Republican|
|25 (Southernmost tip)||133,905||131,418||103,994||369,317||1.89% Republican|
|State Totals||4,039,250||4,631,057||2,411,485||11,081,792||14.65% Democratic||10 D, 15 R||6 D, 19 R|
|*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.|
Legislators took public testimony regarding redistricting in summer 2011 and began holding committee meetings in the fall. The 2012 legislative session started earlier than normal in order to finish redistricting so that candidates had time to qualify for spring primary races.
Florida's redistricting timeline:
|Florida 2010 Redistricting Timeline|
|Summer 2011||Legislature conducts hearings around the state to get public input.|
|January 10, 2012||Legislature meets for 60-day legislative session.|
|March 9, 2012||Session ends.|
|March 10, 2012||Legislature submits the plan to the Florida Supreme Court for review as required by law. The court has 30 days to review the plan.|
|April 16, 2012||The FSC completes its review and legislature submits plan to the Department of Justice. The DOJ has 60 days to review the plan.|
|June 18, 2012||Districts are finalized.|
Amendment suggested to change timeline
Florida Senate Redistricting Committee Chair Don Gaetz (R) suggested a constitutional amendment to shorten the timeline for Florida redistricting. Critics said the current process unnecessarily delayed final approval of maps into early 2012, giving the DOJ and citizens little time to process the maps by primary season. However, even if Gaetz's amendment had made the ballot, it wouldn’t have gone into effect until the next redistricting cycle. Besides moving the vote up, critics also wanted maps released earlier for public comment. Florida public hearings were especially contentious given charges that public comments were not being taken seriously.
The Florida State Constitution of 1885 gave authority for the legislature to reapportion itself and provided for representation based on geography. Under this plan, each county could have no more than one senator and at least one representative, with the five largest counties allowed 3 representatives. When the state's population skyrocketed during the 1950s, this disparity led to a polarizing of the legislature based on rural versus urban.
In 1965 the case of Swann v. Adams declared the geographical representation provisions to be unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state legislature to reapportion itself by population. In 1967 a submitted redistricting plan was adopted by the federal district court that, for the first time, set up districts based on population. This resulted in a number of seats being transferred from the rural panhandle to central and southern Florida.
The state adopted a new constitution in 1968, which remains in place today. It provides for a Senate consisting of 30 to 40 members and a House of 80 to 120 members, with districts equal in population.
In 2001, Florida gained two new Congressional seats, to be drawn up by a legislature where Republicans controlled two houses. Both legislative chambers were at their Constitutionally dictated maximums, with 120 House and 40 Senate seats. In the 1990s. the state's growth was surpassed only by California and Texas; the latter actually grew rapidly enough to displace Florida's place as America's 3rd most populous state. The state's legislature named a [[Florida State Senate}Senate]] committee to sketch boundaries for 25 U.S. House seat. Under that's Committee's immediate jurisdiction were two subcommittees, one assigned to each legislative chambers' districts.
Legislative districts weren't scheduled to be redrawn until 2002, a timeline made more confusing still by the fact that Florida's County Commissions planned to finalize maps of their districts around October 2001 in line with a requirement that lower level district be final by December 31, 2001. Tension started early among Democrats, who noted GOP dominance in the legislature and in the Congressional delegation - Republicans held 13 of the 23 House seats as of 2000. The sentiment among Dems was that the final plan would be decided in the courts. Nonetheless, minority voters, a traditionally Democratic bloc, soared. Hispanics grew 70.7% and blacks grew 27.7% in one decade; those numbers bear some qualification as Florida's large population of Cuban-American trend Republican.
Halfway through the 2001 summer, lawmakers met to begin the redistricting process, at which point alliances had already formed. For instance, Republicans in Naples cast their lot with Democrats over a shared fear that Miami-Dade and Broward GOP legislators, seeking to shore up their tenuous holds on Democratic areas, would plunder the solidly Republican areas around Naples. The preliminary hearings and public meetings ran through the early fall, wrapping up in mid-October. Simultaneously, a League of Women Voters headed petition drive took to the streets, gathering signatures in favor of an amendment to remove redistricting power from the legislature. To place such a proposed amendment before the voters in 2002, just under 490,000 signatures were needed. As petition efforts ramped up, several Congressmen sent lobbyists to the state Capitol in bids to save their districts and minority Democrats criticized the installation of a keypad lock on the 3rd floor Capitol work room used for redistricting, a real barrier to transparency in redistricting and a questionable public image.
State Republicans finally came forward with their first two maps at the beginning of December 2001. To no one's surprise, the maps made both new Congressional seats into safe Republican seats. The maps also managed to shore up weak Republicans and take square aim at a pair of weak Democrats.
Sitting six weeks early for the 2002 session, the legislature hoped to complete the district maps in the regular session, a tall order for a 60 day calendar. Additionally pressing on legislators was Florida's inclusion on the U.S. Justice Department's list of state required to pre-clear their maps in compliance with the Voting Rights Acts. Four weeks into the extended session, Senate Republicans produced their first map, which was decried for short-changing minorities. A competing House plan was assessed as creating a friendly seat for the ambitious House Speaker at the expense of the current Congressional delegation. Competition between the House and Senate plans soon tapped into the existing feuds between the two chambers and became a public embarrassment.
On January 25, 2002, only three days after the legislative session officially convened, the first lawsuit hit. Three black Congressmen sued, asking Florida's courts to step in an take over drawing maps, contending the legislative process was hopelessly compromised so long as it remained in Republican hands. The next day, the Senate fired a tacit rebuttal, approving a Congressional map that favored the GOP. At the beginning of February, the House moved its own GOP friendly bill out of committee, fastracking it for a vote before the entire House. Meanwhile, House Democrats had sued in the U.S. District Court for Miami, again seeking to have the courts take over redistricting. In early March,as the House debated a combined plan to redraw Congressional and Legislative seats, the minority's lawyers, in the process of suing the legislature as they were, were declined in a bid to be present on the floor during debate as partisan counsel.
Each Democratic amendment offered was voted down and the plan passed overwhelmingly on partisan lines. Senate approval followed before the month was out.
In 2001, legislative redistricting plans were initially rejected by the Justice Department because they diluted the power of minorities to elect their candidates of choice. By the end of April, the matter was before the Florida Supreme Court, which had two weeks to endorse the maps or reject them and demand amendments ahead of the 2002 midterm elections. Coinciding with the Supreme Court's May 8, 2002 deadline was the work of a three-member panel of Federal judges, independently scrutinizing the Congressional map at the behest of the earlier Democratic lawsuit.
The Florida Supreme Court approved the Congressional plan while the Federal Court calendared a June 3, 2002 trial over the same map. The earlier ruling did not stay uncontested long, as the Democratic Attorney General of Florida Bob Butterworth sued in the Washington, DC Federal Court, seeking the have the map thrown out and the matter turned over to the judicial branch. Florida Republicans accused the Attorney General of trying to delay elections and pointed out that Butterworth had been quiet about redistricting issues a decade earlier when his party controlled the process. Then Governor Jeb Bush chose to file the map with the Justice Department without involving Butterworth, a deliberate snub given the Attorney General's traditional role in filing redistricting plans. Governor Bush and his top aides had no compunction in saying they felt they could not trust Butterworth, a dig repaid when Butterworth suggested Florida's map would be too lightly treated given the President's family relationship with the Governor. For good measure, Butterworth named top George Bush aide John Ashcroft as a defendant.
The trial ran through June 21, 2002, and saw Democrats testify to shabby treatment from the majority party and ostracization from redistricting. On July 8, 2002, the judges ruled they would take over drawing boundaries, but only for state House seats in a few districts. Meanwhile, the Justice Department rejected the map for violating the Voting Rights Act regarding Hispanic voters in Collier County. The Speaker of the Florida House hastily redrew the map and won approval from the panel of judges the next day, clearing the map to be resubmitted to the Justice Department. That fall, the GOP held its trifecta along with the three cabinet level offices in the executive branch, though both U.S. Senate seats went to Democrats.
Deviation from "Ideal Districts"
|2000 Population Deviation|
|State House Districts||2.79%|
|State Senate Districts||0.03%|
|Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.|
There were three lawsuits related to the Florida 2000 census redistricting process.
- Brown v. Butterworth, No. ___________ (Fla. Cir. Ct. Broward Co. June 17, 2002) : State circuit court Judge Robert Lance Andrews ruled that only a federal court has jurisdiction to decide whether the new congressional districts enacted into law are constitutional.
- Martinez v. Bush, No. 02-20244-CIV-JORDAN (S.D. Fla. July 9, 2002) : A three-judge panel upheld the congressional and state House plans against alleged Section 2 violations.
- Martinez v. Bush, 234 F. Supp.2d 1275 (S.D. Fla. Dec.3, 2002) : A three-judge panel upheld the congressional and state Senate and House plans against alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Additionally, passage of Florida Legislative District Boundaries, Amendment 5 (2010) added Section 21 to Article III, while passage of Florida Congressional District Boundaries, Amendment 6 (2010) added Section 20.
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