Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith disputed Tuesday the claim by Senate Republican leaders that the plan for redrawing the chamber’s 40 districts was mostly approved by the state Supreme Court.
The court last week ruled eight of the districts were invalid, including two seats spanning Broward and Palm Beach counties. Justices also had “concerns” with another two districts which divide the city of Lakeland.
Echoing an earlier comment from Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said Monday that means, “three-fourths of the current plan has been deemed valid.”
Not so fast, Smith said.
“An entire redrawing of a Senate map is required,” Smith said, calling last week’s ruling by justices an “historic rejection” of the Legislature’s Senate plan.
Because the boundaries cited by the court are contiguous to other districts, it’s impossible to just make a few fixes, as Smith said Republicans are trying to cast the approach to a special session which begins Wednesday.
The court’s 233-page ruling provides, “enough instruction by the court for the Legislature to draw a map that will pass muster,” Smith said. “But there is no such thing as…(just) tweak the map.”
Smith also said he was pleased with the Supreme Court’s adherence to standards for compact districts and not drawing lines that favor a party or incumbents. These new provisions were included in the state constitution by voters in 2010, who approved Amendments 5 and 6.
While Amendment 5, which controlled legislative redistricting, was applied by justices, Smith said he is optimistic a Leon County Circuit Court will follow the same standard in reviewing the Legislature’s plan for redrawing congressional districts. Florida Democrats and allied organizations have sued to overturn that plan, based on the demands of Amendment 6, which covered congressional redistricting.
Smith also said that party leaders are still considering further action against the House redistricting plan, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. Smith said it’s possible legal challenges to a select number of districts would be filed in lower courts by Democrats.
Smith, meanwhile, acknowledged that he’s been fielding phone calls from Senate Democrats whose districts also could be dramatically redrawn in coming days.
Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, currently serves a heavily minority district that snakes from Broward County through Palm Beach County, mostly clinging to the Interstate-95 corridor. Smith’s district, and that of a parallel coastal district held by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, were declared invalid by the court.
Under redrawn maps, it’s possible that Smith’s district change to become primarily rooted in far western Palm Beach County, while reaching in to include mostly black voters in Mangonia Park, Riviera Beach, and parts of West Palm Beach. Bogdanoff’s district, meanwhile, looks potentially destined to be confined to Broward County — and turn Democratic-leaning.
“I think you’re going to see a very different Senate makeup when Palm Beach and Broward districts are redrawn,” Smith said.