Yesterday my FairVote colleagues and I released a memo explaining how Florida can move forward with its 2014 elections while remedying its violation of its state constitutional provisions involving fair redistricting. Today we updated the memo to reflect a proposed new congressional district plan introduced yesterday by Florida state legislative leaders.
Following is a summary of the memo, along with a map relating to our analysis. The full memo can be downloaded as a PDF. In addition, I recommend reading the Florida page and explanation of open ticket voting from our Monopoly Politics 2014 and the Fair Voting Solution report and our discussion of the Louisiana congressional election system in our 2010 analysis of ways to improve California's Top Two primary.
Last month, Judge Terry P. Lewis found Florida’s congressional redistricting plan to be in violation of the state constitution. Judge Lewis ordered the Legislature to submit a new district map by August 15th that will remedy constitutional violations in two districts, which will also affect up to ten surrounding districts and has the potential to throw the state’s plan for primary and general elections into disarray. The Florida legislature began a special session on August 7th and proposed a plan that made relatively minor adjustments to seven district. In this memo, we propose two short-term remedies to allow a constitutional plan to be used in Florida’s 2014 election cycle. Although one of the remedies conflicts with federal law, there is precedent from Louisiana in 2008 for state action overriding federal law involving congressional elections in a state crisis.
- Fair representation voting in a multi-seat district involving affected districts: The best and simplest approach would be to combine the five most directly affected congressional districts (as illustrated in the image above) and enact the open ticket method of voting in a multi-seat district election in November. Doing so provides the best assurance of fair representation and meaningful choices for all voters. It is simple and administratively feasible. Although this approach would be in tension with a 1967 federal law mandating single member districts, there is precedent from Louisiana in 2008 for unilateral state action to resolve a state crisis.
- Louisiana election system in redrawn districts: The second best approach would be to redraw the affected congressional districts in a way that remedies the violation, then re-open candidate filing for all districts affected and implement Louisiana’s current congressional election system in the affected districts, as was ordered by a federal court in August 1996 after a similar situation involving 13 Texas congressional districts being redrawn after the state had already held primary elections. Louisiana’s system involves holding a general election in November among all candidates seeking the office, with a contingent runoff between the top two candidates in December if no candidate secures an absolute majority of the votes in November. This remedy does not violate federal law, unlike an approach where the primary would take place in November and a general election in December.