In a somewhat unsurprising decision issued on April 27, the Supremes confirmed what most Floridians likely knew already: the gerrymander survived practically unscathed Florida voters’ attempts to destroy it by passing what were known in 2010 as Amendments 5 and 6 (district maps are available here ). Amendment 5, which dealt with state districts, created a two-tiered review of redistricing plans. The first tier provides that districts may not be drawn with 1) an intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent 2) an intent to deny or limit racial minorities from electing representatives of their racial group, and 3) districts must be contiguous. Provided that these conditions can be met, districts must also be as nearly equal in size as possible, be compact, and be drawn using existing political and geographical boundaries when possible.

After the original proposed redistricting plans were presented, the Supreme Court approved the House plan and rejected the Senate plan based on improper numbering and various questionable districts. A special session was convened to redraw the Senate districts, and a revised plan was submited to the Court. The court held that the revisions pass constitutional muster, and that challengers did not meet their burden of demonstrating any constitutional violations in the revised plan. Justice Pariente pointed out in her concurring opinion the glaring Achilles’ heels in the Fair District Amendment: the process of drawing districts remains in the control of politicians, and the amendment prohibits improper intent, not questionable outcomes. As long as the former remains true, the temptation to use redistricting for political gain will be irresistable to politicians. As long as the latter remains the main standard by which redistricting plans can be challenged, the likelihood of using the courts to prevent politicians from abusing their power will be slim.

The Gerrymander Survives

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *