Florida GOP "Made a Mockery" of Fair Redistricting Amendments, Judge Rules

Trouble in Tallahassee.
Trouble in Tallahassee.

"Gerrymandering" is a big, strange word, but in Florida it describes a simple enough problem: The state's legislative districts are so artificially drawn that one of the nation's most purple electorates has a lockstep Republican state house that will never face a serious challenge. Four years ago, voters backed change. More than 60 percent, in fact, passed the two "Fair Districts" amendments, which demanded that districts not be politically drawn.

Take a wild guess how that played out when legislators drew up a new voting map. Actually, just take it from Florida Judge Terry P. Lewis, who threw out the maps last night and blistered the state GOP for "making a mockery" of the voters demands.

In his scathing opinion, Lewis says that the state GOP mounted a "secret, organized campaign" to draw up congressional districts in a "shadow redistricting process" with just one aim: ensuring a Republican statehouse.

"Republican political consultants or operatives did, in fact, conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process," Lewis writes in his 41-page opinion.

That's exactly what voters demanded an end to with the two Fair Districts amendments, which required un-politicized districting in both state and congressional seats. They both passed in 2010 despite the Republican Party spending more than $2.6 million to try to sink the initiative at the polls.

When the GOP met in 2012 and essentially did what they've always done -- creating unnatural, gerrymandered districts -- the League of Women Voters sued.

Lewis' ruling is a major victory for the challengers. He ruled that at minimum two districts would have to be redrawn -- Republican Rep. Daniel Webster's 10th District and Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown's Fifth District. That move would have ripple effects on a number of other seats as well.

Lewis' ruling is likely to be appealed and could end up being decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

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