Well what a mess created by Florida Republican leaders in the state House and Senate. Their grim determination to draw congressional districts to best suit the needs of the GOP - and to do much of it in secret - showed a particular disdain for Florida voters.
As the Florida Supreme Court noted today: Our citizens declared that the Legislature must “redistrict in a manner that prohibits favoritism or discrimination.”
Then Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Dean Cannon, cheerfully ignored Florida's constitution both for redistricting and the public's right to know. The trial court witnessed arrogant testimony and deliberate efforts to mislead the courts and voters about the role of GOP lobbyists in the redistricting process.
In the court's 5-2 decision, the court noted: The Legislature’s failure to preserve redistricting records and its decision to make important changes to the map during non-public meetings are factors that caused the trial court, and cause this Court, great concern as to whether the Legislature has complied with the constitutional provision to outlaw partisan political gerrymandering.
Now, eight members of Florida's congressional delegation have been told they occupy unconstitutional districts. They will have to be redrawn. Other members of the delegation may also have their districts altered to accommodate the changes.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, (District 21, Dem. Boca Raton), has already sent out an email declaring an "emergency" as he faces redrawn district.
District 13, Rep. David Jolly, R-Tampa
District 14, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa
District 22, held by Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach
District 25, held by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami
District 26, held by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami
District 27, held by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami
Excerpts from the Court's decision:
As the United States Supreme Court has recognized, “partisan gerrymanders . . . [are incompatible] with democratic principles.” In short, the Fair Districts Amendment was designed “to restore ‘the core principle of republican government,’ namely, ‘that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.’ ”
we conclude that two legal errors significantly affected the trial court’s determination of the appropriate legal effect of its finding of unconstitutional intent.
First, the trial court erred in determining that there was no distinction between a challenge to the “plan as a whole”—a challenge, in effect, to the map produced from the unconstitutional “process”—and a challenge to individual districts.
Second, the trial court erred in the standard of review it applied, which was improperly deferential to the Legislature’s decisions after finding a violation of the Fair Districts Amendment’s prohibition on partisan intent.
Although it found the existence of unconstitutional intent, the trial court relied solely on objective “tier-two” constitutional indicators, such as compactness and the use of political or geographical boundaries, rather than on the direct and circumstantial evidence of “tier-one” unconstitutional intent presented at trial.
In other words, the trial court analyzed the Legislature’s map as if it had not found the existence of unconstitutional intent, affording deference to the Legislature where no deference was due.
Once a direct violation of the Florida Constitution’s prohibition on partisan intent in redistricting was found, the burden should have shifted to the Legislature to justify its decisions in drawing the congressional district lines.
(W)e reverse the trial court’s order upholding the Legislature’s remedial redistricting plan.
We relinquish this case to the trial court for a period of 100 days from the date of this opinion, with directions that it require the Legislature to redraw, on an expedited basis, Congressional Districts 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, and all other districts affected by the redrawing, pursuant to the guidelines set forth in this opinion.
We emphasize the time-sensitive nature of these proceedings, with candidate qualifying for the 2016 congressional elections now less than a year away, and - 8 - make clear that we take seriously our obligation to provide certainty to candidates and voters regarding the legality of the state’s congressional districts.
Upon the completion of the redrawing of the map, the trial court shall hold a hearing where both sides shall have an opportunity to present their arguments and any evidence for or against the redrawn map, and the trial court shall then enter an order either recommending approval or disapproval of the redrawn map.