Florida’s congressional map under fire in courtby John Kennedy | April 18th, 2012
The Legislature’s plan for redrawing congressional boundaries was derided Wednesday for packing minority voters into districts and protecting Republican incumbents in arguments by lawyers for the Florida Democratic Party and allied organizations before a Leon County judge.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is expected to rule quickly in the challenge, which was filed in February when the Legislature completed the plan for drawing 27 Florida congressional districts. Lewis has acknowledged that any delay could interfere with candidate qualifying in Florida, which is scheduled to begin June 4.
George Meros, attorney for the House and Senate, defended the congressional plan. He said it meets Voting Rights Act standards, along with Florida’s voter-approved constitutional amendments which require that districts be compact and drawn without concern for incumbents or parties.
Meros said opponents are disputing that the proposed boundaries and recommending they be redrawn to “disperse” black, Democratic-leaning voters into neighboring, white-dominated districts where their influence would be diminished.
Meros said Democrats were pushing for a “black diaspora” that would reduce black voting population, likely in violation of federal law.
“If they are reduced, there will be litigation,” Meros said.
The Florida Democratic Party, League of Women Voters, La Raza and Common Cause-Florida filed their lawsuit immediately after the Legislature approved new congressional boundaries. The state Supreme Court has since upheld the Legislature’s plan for redrawing House seats, but rejected the Senate’s remapping as designed to protect incumbents and preserve Republican control of that chamber.
The Legislature redrew the Senate plan. That proposal is scheduled to be argued Friday before the Florida Supreme Court.
Marc Elias, attorney for voters backed by the Florida Democratic Party, criticized the congressional district plan, saying it was built on the current map created in 2002 that left Florida “the most gerrymandered state in the country.” In repacking minority voters into districts, lawmakers failed to provide any analysis that showed the practice was needed.
“We started with a gerrymandered plan and we continue in 2012 with a Republican Legislature’s gerrymandered plan,” Elias said.