Congressional redistricting back before Florida Supreme Court, with focus on Miami and Palm Beach County

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 11/10/2015

Florida’s three-year battle over congressional districts landed again Tuesday before the state Supreme Court, with attorneys for the House and Senate fighting against a map drawn by a voters’ coalition.

Justices and a lower court have each rejected plans approved by the Republican-led Legislature as being crafted to favor the party and its incumbent members of Congress.

But this time, the Legislature is on the attack – trying to get the court to throw out a plan described as “hands down” the better approach by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, who held a three-day hearing in September on proposals for drawing Florida’s 27 congressional seats in time for next year’s elections.

George Meros, attorney for the Florida House, focused his fight on the Miami-Dade County district currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Meros said the map before justices illegally reduces the chance that Hispanic voters can elect a preferred candidate.

“It seems like a compact district that meets all the requirements,” Justice Peggy Quince said.

But Meros countered, “The problem is it does not meet the most fundamental requirement….that the minority population will be able to elect a candidate of its choice.”

Attorney David King, representing the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause, defended the proposed boundaries, saying that the Miami-Dade seat retains a substantial Hispanic population but acknowledged that it leans Democratic.

He said that may be the real problem for House and Senate attorneys. King seemed to find a possible ally in Justice Barbara Pariente.

“Hispanics are also not just voting Republican anymore,” she said.

The map before the court dramatically changes three of the four congressional districts which course through Palm Beach County.

Districts held by U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, would undergo the most revision.

Pariente, a former Palm Beach County lawyer and appellate judge, cited the opposition of many Democrats to what happened to Frankel and Deutch’s districts as a sign the map wasn’t contoured to favor that party.

“You have been consistent that those districts should be drawn horizontally and be compact,” Pariente told King. “The Democrats, when that was suggested during special session, said ‘you can’t do that. You’ll be pitting two Democratic incumbents against one another.’”

She added that “a lot of people in South Florida” also disputed the change.

King agreed. “We argued for it in our map…(But) the Democratic Party didn’t think it was a good idea.”


Legal battle over state Senate districts coming to an end

01/20/2016
TALLAHASSEE - A contentious battle over Florida state senate districts is coming to an end. read more »

Senate won't appeal redistricting ruling

01/20/2016
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

01/20/2016
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

01/20/2016
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

01/10/2016
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

01/10/2016
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 »