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Florida Supreme Court upholds new state legislative districts

The Florida Supreme Court.
Nick Evans

Florida’s new state legislative districts are now in place for the next decade.

The state Supreme Court issued a ruling on Thursday upholding the state’s House and Senate districts, as House lawmakers were working toward a floor vote on the chamber’s proposed congressional maps.

State legislative candidates running for office this year will file to run within the newly drawn districts. Candidates have until June 17 to file their qualifying paperwork and fees with the state Division of Elections.

Unlike the proposed congressional districts, the state legislative maps have drawn little controversy. In its ruling, the court explained that there were no opponents challenging the maps for the first time since the existing rules governing judicial review of the maps were put in place more than 50 years ago. Democrats, however, have expressed opposition to the maps, which would favor Republicans.

"Celebrating this is like running victory laps in the first quarter," wrote House Minority Leader Evan Jenne (D-Hollywood) in a statement issued after the court's ruling on Thursday. "We still have a lot of game left to play."

The maps could still draw legal challenges, even though they've been approved by the court.

The court found that the maps comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and the state constitution’s Fair Districts Amendment standards, which require that the maps may not intentionally favor a political party or incumbent and that they don't eliminate minority districts or weaken the minority vote in districts where minority groups can elect a candidate of their choice.

The Senate’s map contains five Black performing districts and five Hispanic performing districts, and the House’s plan contains 18 Black opportunity districts and 12 districts that perform for Hispanics.

Because the legislature only looked at voting behavior within minority performing districts — to ensure that the minority group made up a large enough of the constituency to elect a candidate of their choice — the court found that the maps weren’t drawn to intentionally favor a political party. Lawmakers also didn’t consider incumbent addresses while drawing the maps.

Under the state constitution, the maps must also meet population, size and boundary requirements. The court found that they complied reasonably with those standards.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.