Florida Supreme Court OK’s Senate redistricting map in setback for Democratsby John Kennedy | April 27th, 2012
The Florida Supreme Court upheld the latest plan for redrawing state Senate boundaries Friday, a setback for Florida Democrats and allied organizations which had urged justices to declare the map unconstitutional.
“In this proceeding, we conclude that the opponents have failed to demonstrate that the revised Senate plan as a whole or with respect to any individual district violates Florida‘s constitutional requirements,” the court wrote, adding “no motion for rehearing will be entertained. This case is final.”
All seven justices agreed in most of the issues raised in the case. But the court’s two black justices, James Perry and Peggy Quince, dissented in the Legislature’s drawing of Volusia County districts, saying the Senate map badly fractured Daytona Beach’s minority community, apparently to help Republicans win a pair of Senate seats in the region.
In a 5-2 decision last month, the court had declared the first Senate plan unconstitutional, ruling that eight districts favored incumbents, spanned long distances or packed-in minority voters – all in violation of voter-approved redistricting standards.
Democrats and other groups argued the redrawn map includes many of the same problems. But in arguments before them last Friday, justices expressed misgivings at calls from Democratic lawyers for a wholesale rewrite.
The court last month endorsed the plan for redrawing House districts. If the Legislature’s second attempt at crafting Senate boundaries had been rejected, justices would have been charged with creating the map themselves, a route many seemed uneasy about taking.
Justice Barbara Pariente, who wrote the opinion overturning the first Senate plan, concurred this time and added her own view of critics’ arguments. The Florida Democratic Party, Common Cause of Florida, National Council of La Raza, and the state’s League of Women Voters sought a wholesale rewrite from justices, while the NAACP also pointed to problems with minority districts.
But Pariente, in her concurring opinion, said it wasn’t the court’s place to substitute its work for that of state lawmakers.
“I do not agree that this court has total discretion to substitute its policy preferences for legislative decisions,” Pariente wrote. “Rather, this court‘s role is to determine whether a violation of the constitution has been established.”