Prof. Justin Levitt's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

Florida

State Summary

In Florida, congressional lines are drawn by the legislature, as normal legislation.  State legislative lines are drawn by the legislature and passed as a joint resolution, which is not subject to gubernatorial veto.

In the 2010 cycle, Florida’s legislature passed congressional maps (SB 1174) on Feb. 9, 2012, which were struck down on July 10, 2014 (2014 elections were held under the existing 2012 map).  The legislature passed remedial maps (SB 2-A) on Aug. 11, 2014; on July 9, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court held that substantially more portions of the 2012 map were invalid. After the legislature failed to agree on a subsequent remedial plan, the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 2, 2015 approved a remedial map drawn by the courts.

The legislature also passed state legislative maps (SJR 1176) on Feb. 9, 2012; on initial review, the state Supreme Court approved state House districts but struck down the state Senate plan.  On Mar. 27, 2012, the state legislature passed a revised Senate plan (SJR 2-B).  On July 28, 2015, in the face of a court challenge, the Senate admitted that the new plan was unlawful; when the legislature failed to agree on a remedial plan, the state court on Dec. 30, 2015 drew a new state Senate plan instead.

 

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Key Info for 2000 Cycle

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Institution

Florida’s congressional lines are drawn by the legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.  The state legislative lines are drawn by the legislature and passed as a joint resolution, which is not subject to gubernatorial veto.

The state legislative plan is automatically sent to the Florida Supreme Court for review; if the plan is unlawful, the Court will allow the legislature another opportunity to redraw the lines. Similarly, if the legislature does not develop a map, the Attorney General must ask the state Supreme Court to draw the legislative district lines. No similar provision exists for congressional lines. [Fla. Const. art. III, § 16(b)-(e)]

Timing

Florida state law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional lines, though candidates must file for congressional primary elections by Apr. 29, 2022. [Fla. Stat. § 99.061(1)]  The legislative session is currently scheduled to begin on Mar. 2, 2021, and end on Apr. 30, 2021.

State legislative lines must be drawn in the legislative session in the second year after the federal Census is conducted.  If the legislature does not meet this deadline, it will be reconvened in a special 30-day session to draw legislative districts; if it again fails to pass a plan, the Attorney General must ask the state Supreme Court to draw the district lines.  [Fla. Const. art. III, §§ 316(a)-(b)]  This legislative session is currently scheduled to begin on Jan. 11, 2022, and end on Mar. 12, 2022.  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by June 17, 2022.  [Fla. Stat. § 99.061(1)]

Florida law ties the drawing of state legislative lines to the Census, and might therefore be construed to prohibit redrawing lines mid-decade; there is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [Fla. Const. art. III, § 16(a)]

Public input

In the last cycle, the legislature held 26 public hearings throughout the state to consider public input on redistricting after the census. Meeting records of the relevant legislative committees are archived here; committee meetings are also recorded on video.

The redistricting committees have not yet announced any specific plans or guidelines for public input this cycle.

Criteria

Like all states, Florida must comply with constitutional equal population requirements. State law further asks that districts be as nearly equal in population as is practicable, if doing so does not interfere with minority rights; the state Supreme Court has interpreted this language to include some flexibility, just as the constitution does. [Fla. Const. art. III, §§ 20(b)21(b); In re Sen. J. Res. of Legis. Apportionment 1176, 83 So.3d 597, 630 (Fla. 2012)]

Florida must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.  State law further requires that districts “not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice.”  The state Supreme Court has interpreted this language to mirror the federal Voting Rights Act’s focus on functional electoral performance, triggered not by minority demographic percentages, but by evaluation of a minority community’s practical opportunities to elect candidates of choice.  This language also creates a state prohibition against retrogression, similar to the federal Voting Rights Act’s “section 5” authority before Shelby County v. Holder.  [Fla. Const. art. III, §§ 20(a)21(a); League of Women Voters v. Detzner, 172 So.3d 363, 404-06 (Fla. 2015); In re Sen. J. Res. of Legis. Apportionment 1176, 83 So.3d 597, 620-27 (Fla. 2012)]

Florida law also provides additional constraints for both state legislative and congressional districts. Districts must be contiguous, and where doing so does not conflict with minority rights, must utilize existing political and geographical boundaries where feasible; the courts have interpreted this to prohibit districts that split particularly large numbers of counties or cities or that do so in unjustified ways.  The state also requires that, where doing so does not conflict with minority rights, districts must be compact, in the sense that lines should not have an “unusual” or “bizarre” shape, with “unnecessary appendages”; the state Supreme Court has also critiqued districts with particularly low scores on specific measures — like the Reock score (ratio of district area to the area of the smallest circumscribed circle) or Convex Hull score (ratio of district area to the area of the smallest circumscribed convex polygon) — but emphasized that the state constitution does not require maximizing mathematical scores.  [Fla. Const. art. III, §§ 20(a)-(b)21(a)-(b); League of Women Voters v. Detzner, 172 So.3d 363, 402-03, 406 (Fla. 2015); In re Sen. J. Res. of Legis. Apportionment 1176, 83 So.3d 597, 632-636 (Fla. 2012)]  Districts may also overlap. [Fla. Const. art. III, §§ 16(a)]

No plan or individual district may be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent. [Fla. Const. art. III, §§ 20(a)21(a); In re Sen. J. Res. of Legis. Apportionment 1176, 83 So.3d 597, 615-19 (Fla. 2012)]

2010 cycle

Florida’s legislature passed congressional maps (SB 1174) on Feb. 9, 2012, which was signed on Feb. 16, 2012 and precleared on Apr. 30, 2012.

The congressional plan was struck down in state court on July 10, 2014, with respect to two districts, though 2014 elections were held under the existing 2012 map.  The state legislature passed remedial maps (SB 2-A) on Aug. 11, 2014, signed on Aug. 13, 2014.  On July 9, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court held that substantially more portions of the 2012 map were invalid, largely based on partisan intent impermissible under the state constitution, and returned the case for a more extensive redrawing of the lines before the 2016 election. After the legislature failed to agree on a subsequent remedial plan, the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 2, 2015 approved a remedial map drawn by the courts.  [League of Women Voters v. Detzner, 179 So.3d 258 (Fla. 2015); League of Women Voters v. Detzner, 172 So.3d 363 (Fla. 2015)]  Further challenges to that plan in federal court were rejected.  [Brown v. Detzner, No. 4:15-cv-00398 (N.D. Fla. Apr. 18, 2016)]

Florida’s legislature passed state legislative maps (SJR 1176) on Feb. 9, 2012; on initial review, the state Supreme Court on Mar. 9, 2012, approved state House districts but struck down the state Senate plan.  On Mar. 27, 2012, the state legislature passed a revised Senate plan (SJR 2-B), which was approved by the state Supreme Court. The House and Senate plans were both precleared on Apr. 30, 2012.  On July 28, 2015, in the face of a court challenge, the Senate admitted that the new plan was again drawn with an undue influence of partisanship; when the legislature failed to agree on a remedial plan, the state court on Dec. 30, 2015, drew a new state Senate plan instead.  [League of Women Voters v. Detzner, No. 2012-CA-2842 (Fla. Cir. Ct., Leon Cnty. Dec. 30, 2015); Stipulation, League of Women Voters v. Detzner, No. 2012-CA-2842 (Fla. Cir. Ct., Leon Cnty. July 28, 2015); In re Sen. J. Res. of Legis. Apportionment 2-B, 89 So.3d 872 (Fla. 2012); In re Sen. J. Res. of Legis. Apportionment 1176, 83 So.3d 597 (Fla. 2012)]

2000 cycle

Florida’s legislature passed congressional maps (H1993) on Mar. 27, 2002, which were precleared on June 7, 2002.

Florida’s legislature also passed state legislative maps (H1987) on Mar. 28, 2002; the state Senate plan was precleared on June 20, 2002, but the state House plan drew an objection from the Department of Justice. A federal court modified the state House plan, based on the House Speaker’s proposed amendment to the legislative plan; this plan was later adopted by the legislature (H25), and precleared on Feb. 2, 2004.

The state legislative plans were automatically submitted to state court, and upheld. Both the legislative plans and the congressional plan were also challenged in federal court, and both were ultimately upheld. [In re Constitutionality of House Joint Resolution 25E, 863 So.2d 1176 (Fla. 2003); In re Constitutionality of House Joint Resolution 1987, 817 So.2d 819 (Fla. 2002); Martinez v. Bush, 234 F. Supp. 2d 1275 (S.D. Fla. 2002)]