ORLANDO — Voters approved two amendments Tuesday that would set new rules for how legislative and congressional districts in Florida are redrawn each decade.
Amendment 5 dealt with legislative districts, while Amendment 6 addressed U.S. congressional districts. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, voters affirmed both amendments with more than 62 percent of the vote. The amendments required 60 percent of voter approval to pass.
The battle over the amendments pitted several of Florida's best-known black and Hispanic lawmakers against advocates who said the current methods create gerrymandered districts that protect incumbency. Gerrymandered districts have contorted or unusual shapes. They are created to get particular voters into a district, whether for racial, economic or political reasons.
Until Tuesday, Florida's only redistricting requirement was that districts be contiguous, or share a common border.
The new amendments require that both legislative and congressional districts be compact, equal in population and make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries. The amendments prohibit drawing districts to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.
Similar efforts had failed in Florida three other times.
"I really think that it has something to do with the mood of the people who are tired of the hyper-partisanship that they're seeing in politics today," said Ellen Freidin, campaign chairwoman of FairDistrictsFlorida.org, the group leading the push for the amendments. "Those who voted for them ... recognized that they didn't want politicians to continue choosing their voters and rigging districts for their own political gain."
Some black and Hispanic lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla.,had argued that the new standards could threaten Florida's six congressional districts where blacks and Hispanics are either in the majority or close to being in the majority.
Brown didn't return several phone calls Tuesday night but she said last month that she would challenge the amendments in court if they passed.