Florida’s impending redistribution fiasco, but hope judges follow constitution


The Florida legislature knew its limit of $ 3,000 on campaign contributions for citizen-run amendments was unconstitutional.

But lawmakers adopted it anyway.

Governor Ron DeSantis knew it was unconstitutional.

But he signed it anyway.

Attorney General Ashley Moody knew it was unconstitutional.

But she still defended him.

Everyone knew that targeting a specific type of contribution violated the First Amendment, but literally no one in the state government with the power lifted a finger to stop it.

Two federal judges saw the law for what it was and prevented it from coming into force. The law was so bogus that Moody’s office didn’t even bother to challenge the injunction until the appeal deadline expired.

And now, the same legislature that so casually passed this law is preparing to embark on a once-a-decade effort to redesign federal and state electoral districts.

Two constitutional amendments adopted by voters in 2010 – by margins of 63% – require that these cards be drawn without favoring the incumbents or a particular political party. Neighborhoods should be compact, and wherever possible, should follow city, county, and geography boundaries.

Simple enough.

But even a decade ago, the Legislature did its best to violate the state constitution when making maps of the state Congress and Senate.

The state was taken to the state Supreme Court, where it was virtually flogged by judges who found their cards did not. not pass the constitutional rally.

Much has changed since then, and not for the better, as evidenced by the attempt to crack down on campaign contributions to citizen-led amendments. The legislature has become even more brazen in its contempt for constitutional amendments approved by voters it dislikes.

And, he now has a Florida Supreme Court that is much more conservative and perhaps more likely to give the legislature more slack.

Meanwhile, the complicated legislative process for drawing new maps is woefully overdue, in large part because the U.S. census numbers are coming so late, in part because of the pandemic. The data was supposed to be available last spring, but it should not arrive until the end of September.

Months have been lost. Public hearings should be well under way.

Delays in the census are by no means the fault of the Legislature, but House and Senate leaders should do everything possible to prime the pump for the arrival of the data.

Our fear is that the shortened window of opportunity will be an opportunity for the process to operate even further away from the sun than in the past. In other words, no more unconstitutional mischief behind the scenes – safe in the belief that the state Supreme Court will quietly follow whatever the legislature decides.

We’re not so sure that Florida’s highest court will be as willing as lawmakers to set aside oaths to uphold the constitution.

Remember, it was the court that unanimously rejected a DeSantis candidate because she was literally not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, having not been to the Florida Bar for 10 years. , as required by the state constitution. (Yes, another case where the governor knew he was doing something unconstitutional but didn’t care.)

“The governor did not follow the clear orders of the constitution,” the High Court wrote.

If the court is willing to rule on the constitution in this case, it may be inclined to do so again based on the clear orders of the Fair Districts amendments.

On the legislative side of state government, we are not encouraged that only 17 lawmakers – all Democrats – out of the 160 members of the legislature were ready to sign a pledge essentially saying they would follow the constitutional mandate. of the Fair District. Dozens of Democrats have not signed, as well as every Republican.

Not great.

The group that circulated the pledge, Fair Districts Now, is pushing for full transparency in the delayed and cut short process.

They, along with dozens of other rights organizations, want the work of writing the maps to be done in public view. They want all map data to be easily accessible to the public. They want public comments and meeting transcripts to be readily available for anyone to view.

Republican leaders should heed these demands. After all the GOP sighs and puffs after the 2020 election on the need for transparency, it would be further hypocrisy for them to cover up the redistribution in secrecy.

We have no doubt that the legislature will try to play games, using the proven methods of gerrymandering to crack (divide like-minded voters into multiple districts to dilute their power) and pack (cram like-minded voters). ideas in the districts to achieve the same goal).

But given the legislature’s record, we also have little doubt that the cards will end up in court again, even though Florida’s constitution is crystal clear on how districts are meant to be drawn.

Unless lawmakers surprise us, we will again have to rely on seven judges to uphold the Florida Constitution.

So surprise us, lawmakers.

Editorials are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and are written by a member or designate. The Editorial Board is made up of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick and Editor Julie Anderson. Send emails to [email protected].


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