Senate failed; court must act

Randy Schultz[ck_comma] for The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board | The Palm Beach Post | 04/25/2012

If the Florida Supreme Court draws the state Senate map, don't blame judicial activism. Blame political resistance.

During Friday's oral arguments on the second map, even the justices who still rightly were questioning districts that favor incumbents - in violation of the voter-passed amendment prohibiting such gerrymandering - questioned the idea of the court drawing the map. Chief Justice Barbara Pariente, who wrote the majority opinion invalidating the first map, no doubt especially worries about the potential reaction. She and Justices Peggy Quince and James Perry already are targets of a special-interest campaign to remove them in November.

Still, redrawing as many as eight districts to make them constitutional would require redrawing many others. More important, the Senate left the court no choice. Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, claimed absurdly that the chamber had wanted to be "incumbent-neutral." Yet the Senate at first failed to provide the court with addresses of all senators, obviously to hide all the incumbent favors Justice Pariente cited. One big favor in the second map is a primarily Treasure Coast district drawn for Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, that needlessly splits Martin and St. Lucie counties.

You wonder if the Senate dared the court to draw the lines. During debate, Republicans grumbled about the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs, some of which are heavily financed by Democrats. But if Democrats controlled the Legislature and tried to ignore a voter-approved constitutional change, just to benefit their party, Republicans would be suing, correctly so. Democracy works best when politicians appeal to the widest spectrum of voters and don't choose their voters. The court must act on behalf of those voters, not the politicians.

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