Legislature tells judge that map keeping Deutch, Frankel vertical falls flat

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 09/21/2015

Ahead of this week’s court hearing on drawing Florida’s congressional district boundaries, the House and Senate have filed documents trashing an effort that mostly maintains the current configuration of Palm Beach County Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch.

Six maps filed with Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis reshape Frankel the Deutch’s districts — stacking them horizontally rather than having them course vertically, side-by-side from Broward into Palm Beach County.

The six maps, submitted by the House, Senate and League of Women Voters, turn Frankel’s District 22 into a Broward-based district. Deutch’s District 21 would be completely contained in Palm Beach County.

But a group of voters dubbed the Romo plaintiffs have filed a seventh map with Lewis that leaves untouched Frankel’s current district, while adding a few more voters from Deutch’s home Palm Beach County to his seat.

The House and Senate are urging Lewis to reject the plan.

“The Romo plaintiffs’ alternatives to Districts 21 and 22 were drawn with the intent to favor Democratic incumbents,” attorneys for the House and Senate argue in their objection, filed late Friday with the court.

The Republican-controlled Legislature maintains that the national Democratic Party and its consultants had spoken with Deutch, D-Boca Raton, in 2012 about the shape of his district.

The Romo map submitted last week contains most of Deutch’s specifications, House and Senate attorneys say.

A number of Palm Beach County officials testified before legislative committees last month seeking to keep the districts held by Deutch and Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, basically the way they are currently. But lawmakers mostly ignored the requests.

The Florida Supreme Court in its July order overturning the Legislature’s congressional map cited Districts 21 and 22 as ripe for improving, noting that a horizontal configuration “would havebeen more compact.” Lawmakers seemed intent on following that recommendation during last month’s failed special session on redistricting.

Lewis is expected to hear testimony Thursday on what map he should recommend to the Florida Supreme Court, which is positioned to have the final say on congressional boundaries now that legislative attempts in 2012 and 2014 have been thrown out by the courts.

While justices tossed out the Legislature’s congressional boundaries as being drawn to help incumbents and the Republican Party, violating a state constitutional ban on gerrymandering, House and Senate attorneys argue the Romo plaintiffs are now doing just that with a map favoring Deutch and Frankel.

“The Constitution prohibits the efforts of both political parties to infiltrate and influence the redistricting process and to manipulate Florida’s congressional districts for political gain,” the Legislature’s attorneys said in their filing with Lewis.

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