Judge refuses to toss challenge to Senate redistricting maps

Orlando Sentinel | 01/17/2013

TALLAHASSEE — Although Floridians have voted and a new state Legislature has moved into the Capitol, voting-rights groups are still challenging the GOP-drawn state Senate redistricting maps — and on Thursday, a Leon County refused lawmakers’ request to dismiss the case.

Lawyers for the House and Senate had argued before Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that the case should have been brought directly before the Florida Supreme Court.

But Lewis wrote in an order Thursday that argument “flies in the face of the case law,” in that the high court conducts only a facial review of the maps once they’re drawn.

The Florida League of Women Voters, the National Council of La Raza, and two individuals filed the legal challenge to the maps last year, arguing they didn’t comply with the 2010 “Fair Districts” constitutional amendment that required more compact seats drawn without the intent of hurting or helping incumbents or political parties.

The groups challenged the maps initially and won a Supreme Court order last spring to have the first version of the Senate districts re-drawn, which happened in a special session.

Lewis wrote that the high court’s “facial review” of the maps, which could consider only limited data analysis, did not preclude the groups from building a stronger evidence that the seats still had the intended effect of electing more Republicans than Democrats. But he cautioned the sides not to “rehash” the same arguments.

‘To the extent that the plaintiffs seek only a rehash of facial arguments made before the Florida Supreme Court, they will be disappointed,” Lewis wrote. “But to the extent their claims are as-applied challenges to the plans, they are entitled to develop and to present relevant evidence to support their claims.”

With the new maps, the party breakdown in the Senate shifted from a 28-12 Republican majority to a 26-14 GOP advantage. The ruling paves the way for a fuller trial on how the maps actually performed in the 2012 elections.

“Judge Lewis’s order means that Floridians will have their day in court,” plaintiff attorney Adam Schachter said in a statement. “This ruling gives our citizens the right to scrutinize the conduct and motives of those who drew the map.”

Legal battle over state Senate districts coming to an end

TALLAHASSEE - A contentious battle over Florida state senate districts is coming to an end. read more »

Senate won't appeal redistricting ruling

Clearing the way for elections later this year with a map that could boost Democrats' numbers in the Senate, Republican leaders decided Wednesday not to appeal a Leon County judge's ruling setting districts for the chamber's 40 seats. read more »

Florida Senate won't appeal ruling on new districts

TALLAHASSEE — Senate leaders said Wednesday that they will not appeal last month's court ruling that sided with a voters' coalition in setting new district boundaries. read more »

Florida Legislature won't appeal redistricting ruling

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature is giving up the fight and will not contest a court ruling that redraws all of the state's 40 state senate districts for the 2016 election cycle. read more »

Editorial: Republicans should accept redistricting defeat and drop talk of appeals

For a brief moment last week it appeared the Florida Legislature had come to its senses and was willing to accept a judge's ruling on the boundaries for new state Senate districts. read more »

Renumbering state Senate districts triggers political scramble

TALLAHASSEE — It may sound like a simple process, but the Florida Senate's random renumbering of all its districts statewide Tuesday touched off a series of complicated twists that one key lawmaker said only adds more chaos to a continuing redistricting saga. read more »