With Supreme's weighing in, redistricting heading to special session

Mar 9, 2012

The Florida Supreme Court says the Senate’s new voting district maps are unconstitutional. Regan McCarthy reports today marks the last constitutionally required day of Florida’s 60-day regular legislative session, but the Supreme court’s ruling means lawmakers will have to come back to Tallahassee for a special session to sort out the maps.

The Florida Supreme court says the House district maps are constitutionally valid. And members of the House are pretty excited about it. Representative Will Weatherford, who led the redistricting process in the House announced the ruling on the floor.

“On the very first page, I figured I would just read what it says. It says, for reasons set forth in this opinion we declare the plan apportioning districts for the Florida House of Representatives to be constitutionally valid under the constitution **cheers**

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the House districts, and House Speaker Dean Cannon says that’s because of Weatherford’s efforts.

“You and those who voted for the maps deserve great credit. Those who tried to inject partisanship into it, those who implored you or others to cut corners, did not follow the constitution that we all took an oath to uphold, and those who tried to undermine your efforts can realize today that they were wrong.”

Meanwhile, Cannons says the Supreme Court ruled the Senate district maps violate the constitution.

“So we will need to plan to return in a special session.”

The court used the same district builder software to review the maps as lawmakers used to build the maps. And in a lengthy 234 page court opinion Justice Barbara Pariente says when the Senate plan is viewed as a whole a “clear pattern” of “improper intent” is revealed. Pariente spoke when the court heard oral arguments over the maps about her concerns, which she says stem from the differences in the methods used by the House and the Senate to draw the maps.

“The way that it worked this year, is the House left the Senate alone and the Senate left the House alone and they both agreed that whatever they passed would then go out on the joint resolution.”

Senate President Mike Haridopolos says the court’s decision is disappointing, but adds that the Senate Reapportionment committee will work as soon as a special session is called to address the court’s concerns.

It’s part of the process, we respect it, and we’re confident that with the information we have at hand we can recognize those concerns and we can get those lines in place.

And he has said he hopes the maps can be finalized quickly.

“One of our other goals was to make these lines as early as possible so if a person chooses to run for office they know where they’re running. I think that’s showing a lot of respect for the voters and is also showing a lot for the persons who’d want to put their, let’s see, names on the ballot would be the best way to put it.”

Haridopolos says the processes will be just as open and transparent as ever. Justice Pariente penned the majority opinion with Justices Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, Jorge Larbarga and James Perry concurring.  Chief Justice Charles Canady concurred in part and dissented in part with Justice Ricky Polston joining him.