Florida Senate offers 100-page defense of its redistricting planby John Kennedy | April 13th, 2012
A week before the Florida Supreme Court hears new arguments in the state’s redistricting case, the Florida Senate submitted Friday a 100-page defense of its plan for redrawing its 40 district boundaries.
The new map is the Legislature’s second and final chance to complete a plan that meets constitutional standards, after a first attempt was ruled invalid by justices.
The Republican-ruled Senate urged justices Friday to respect the Legislature’s latest effort, and disregard an alternate plan provided earlier this week to the court by the Florida Democratic Party and allied organizations.
In its brief filed Friday, attorneys for the Senate argued that justices defer to the plan drawn by lawmakers. The U.S. Supreme Court bolstered the authority of plans drawn by lawmakers earlier this year, ruling in a Texas case.
“This court has expressed its reluctance to drawing a plan itself, noting that such an obligation is ‘the course of last resort,’” Senate lawyers wrote. “Not only that: it would be the first time in this state’s history that this court draws a reapportionment plan where the Legislature did not decline to do so.”
Indeed, the court’s 5-2 decision last month rejecting the Senate plan — but upholding new House district lines — marked the first time Florida justices overturned a legislative redistricting plan.
But Florida Democrats offered their own proposal, contending the Legislature’s latest try resulted in a redrawn plan which still “reveals an intent to favor incumbents and contains multiple districts that plainly and directly violate constitutional standards.”
While the Senate plan includes 23 Republican-leaning districts and 17 favoring Democrats, the Democratic proposal creates a 20-20 voting balance.
But Senate lawyers said that approach conflicts with what analysts say is the state’s natural bias toward Republicans.
Although Democrats hold an almost 500,000 voter advantage statewide, research by Stanford University and University of Michigan political scientists concluded that Democratic voters tend to cluster in Florida cities — allowing Republicans to become the dominant party in a majority of legislative districts.
Most of all, Senate attorneys argued against the Democratic proposal, concluding, ”An alternative proposal does not invalidate the actual plan, even if it is ‘better’ or more nearly approximates constitutional ideals.”