Appalled by the notion that her state’s legislature had gerrymandered voting districts to favor themselves and their party, Ellen Freidin led a citizen’s initiative to amend the Florida Constitution to establish strict rules for the drawing of legislative and Congressional district lines. After four years of gathering signatures and campaigning for passage, what followed was six years of fierce litigation to enforce the amendments and to fight off four separate federal court challenges to the amendments.
Gerrymandering isn’t unique to Florida. Across the country, Republicans and Democrats alike have used the practice to establish political advantage and help incumbents get re-elected. Freidin’s cautionary tale is an important example of how a determined group of citizens can thwart badly intentioned public officials and ensure that state laws are fairly drawn and fully enforced.