Fla Supremes hear revised Senate maps

Apr 20, 2012

The Florida Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the Senate’s new voting district maps. The court ruled the first maps constitutionally invalid, now Regan McCarthy reports the justices are reviewing the senate’s second try.

The attorney representing the Senate in the case, former Florida Supreme Court Justice, Raoul Cantero says the Senate addressed everything the justices asked to be done during their last review.

“The court first ordered us to redraw the eight districts that Justice Pariente identified. To conduct a functional analysis of certain districts that we had said we needed to maintain in a certain configuration, to preserve the city of Lakeland if possible and to adopt an incumbent neutral numbering scheme. As to most of those. There now is no dispute.”

But Paul Smith, who represents the Florida Chapter of the League of Women voters says the Senate maps  “didn’t do nearly enough to limit the glaring favoritism for political parties and incumbents.” Smith argues the Supreme Court should review the entire map—instead of just checking to make sure the changes it requested have been made.

“The court did not simply invalidate eight districts. The court gave additional instructions to the Senate that gave a much broader review. It said, for example, that the Senate’s understanding of the requirement with respect for political and geographic boundaries was completely off base and that they had to go and start over on that.”

Smith goes on to say that the court shouldn’t just “take the Senate’s word” that it operated in “blind and neutral manner.” And Jon Mills, who is representing the Florida Democratic Party in the case echoes Smith’s feeling that the Supreme Court is charged with taking a second look at the entire map.

“This court made an enormous effort to draft a thorough and  comprehensive district to set out standards for a very important 10-year future of Florida. And it’s very important that this court have the opportunity to finish the business by reviewing the validity of every district.”

In its initial review the court voted 5-2 that the Senate maps violated the state constitution. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente authored the court’s majority opinion. And she says she’s not sure the court’s ruling requires a second look at the complete map.

“Read the entire opinion. It would seem that, speaking for the person who wrote it, that there were certain districts that were specifically invalidated. There were other districts where challenges were specifically rejected.”

Pariente says it wouldn’t be fair to the Senate to raise questions about the constitutionality of districts it previously okayed.  Justice Peggy Quince agreed saying the court has already looked at the whole map. Pariente did raise some questions about the “lottery” numbering system the Senate used to assigned district numbers – which would affect how long some lawmakers can stay in office before being term limited out. But Cantero, the Senate’s lawyer, says there are no challenges against it and adds that it does not give any party preference.

“There were 29 incumbents that would be subject to that. Of the 16 that would have numbers that would restrict their eligibility 13 or them were Republican.”

The Supreme Court is charged with reviewing whether the maps meet the state’s constitutional requirements. If they decide they don’t, the court will be charged with redrawing the maps this time around.