Court rejects Senate redistricting

Audrey Gibson | The Florida Times Union | 03/09/2012

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court dealt a blow Friday to the Senate redistricting plan, ruling that the maps that chamber crafted were “constitutionally invalid.” The court also unanimously ruled that political lines drawn by the House pass constitutional muster.

Read the opinion

The maps were challenged by the Florida Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, the National Council of La Raza and Common Cause of Florida. They charged that map-drawers did not follow new state constitutional amendments that require new maps be both compact and not favor political parties.

The court said one of the problematic districts is represented by state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, labeled District 6 on the new maps, and another is its next-door neighbor, District 9, represented by Republican John Thrasher of St. Augustine.

They said District 6 “meanders” through five counties and did not meet the compactness standard. It was drawn as a minority-opportunity district, which are designed to allow racial and language minorities to select a candidate of their choosing. They are mandated by federal law.

Maps drawn by opponents created an access district wholly contained in Duval County, which received praise from the court.

“The coalition had demonstrated that District 6 can be drawn much more compactly and remain a minority-opportunity district,” read the opinion, penned by Justice Barbara Pariente.

Gibson’s current district has a 47 percent minority population. The coalition’s map gives Gibson’s district a 42.4 percent voting age population.

The court concluded that the shape of Gibson’s district is so winding that it impacts the compactness of Thrasher's District 9. That seat is bordered by District 6 on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east.

“The reason for its lack of compactness and failure to utilize political and geographical boundries was its location adjacent to District 6,” the ruling reads.

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