Leagues and Redistricting Reform: Creating Representative Districts

Late last week, a Florida Circuit Court threw out the Congressional maps in Florida, drawn by the state legislature and adopted in 2012. The judge rejected the maps because they violated the Fair District Amendments to the state’s constitution, which were adopted by citizen initiative in 2010 to remove partisan influence from the redistricting process.

This decision represents a huge victory for those fighting partisan gerrymandering and seeking to amend the redistricting process.

The League of Women Voters of Florida was the lead organizational plaintiff in the lawsuit, as well as a driving force behind the Fair Districts Amendments coalition. The judge, in his opinion (PDF), noted the League’s leadership in the case.

In continued good news on this case, this week, the state announced they would not appeal the court’s decision. The state is seeking to delay redrawing the maps until after the 2014 elections, while the Florida League continues to push for new maps in order to ensure fair elections. Ultimately, the judge will make the final ruling.

Like the Florida League, Leagues across the country are seeking solutions to the issue of redistricting and gerrymandered Congressional districts. The League of Women Voters of California was instrumental in forming a citizen-led independent redistricting commission in 2011. Last year, a report found that the maps drawn by this commission were more nonpartisan and democratic than in previous redistricting cycles. The League of Women Voters of Arizona also helped usher in an independent commission via ballot initiative and then later successfully protected it from partisan attacks. Currently, the League of Women Voters of New York is advocating for a ballot initiative that would establish an independent commission to draw districts in the future.

Other Leagues in states including Georgia, Illinois Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas have pushed for increased transparency and public participation in the redistricting process with varied results. As Leagues continue this work, they are seeking to ensure that our Congressional districts reflect our communities, so that the voters are choosing their elected officials, instead of the elected officials choosing their voters.