Since the 2010 census, congressional district boundaries in 22 states have been challenged in the courts by government watchdog groups which generally argue that district lines have been so badly manipulated by state legislatures that its resulted in complete racial and political isolation of minority groups, arguably in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In three states, courts have ruled district maps unconstitutional and ordered state legislatures to redraw the lines. Nine other state maps were redrawn by judges after state legislators failed to agree on redistricting plans.
Five states currently have district lawsuits which are still ongoing: Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Florida’s state supreme court issued its final ruling on a challenge to the state’s congressional districts on Wednesday, approving plaintiffs’ proposal for new district lines after deeming the original boundaries unconstitutional based on an amendment ratified in 2010.
Here’s a before and after of Florida’s congressional district map:
As one can see, the new districts are more congruent compared to the original lines drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Particularly egregious was the fifth district which snaked all the way down from Jacksonville to Orlando and was comprised of mostly minority Democrats, making all the surrounding districts ‘safe Republican’ zones.
North Carolina and Maryland have similar looking congressional maps which carve out areas that are either heavily Democratic or Republican in order to favor the opposite party in adjacent districts. In Maryland, the legislature is controlled by Democrats, while the GOP has a majority in North Carolina.
One solution to gerrymandering is the appointment of an independent redistricting commission which draws boundary lines without partisan motivations. Arizona instituted such a body, and endured a constitutional challenge that was brought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier in 2015.
With more fairly drawn districts set to go into play ahead of the 2016 House elections, look for more moderate candidates to win seats in both parties. Such a result should increase Congress’ productivity in passing legislation which addresses some of the nation’s biggest issues such as outdated infrastructure, a complicated federal tax code, and how to combat terrorism and cyber attacks on American businesses and government databases.
[Bloomberg] [Sun Sentinel]