Here’s where sh*t stands – the “redistricting ain’t over by a mile” edition

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There is a dangerous assumption circulating in Florida politics that, with the Legislature’s passage of the revamped Senate map, the redistricting process is all but over.

Not by a mile.

Here’s where sh*t stands.

The Florida Supreme Court will reject the second Senate map.  At least that’s the near-consensus of anyone not named Don Gaetz.  The second map is an improvement, but there are still glaring issues.  And the Supreme Court can’t say, “Oh well, this is good enough.”  If there is one issue with the map, the Court must reject all of the map.  The Court can  take the map and let it serve as the basis for their redraw, but it is all or nothing.

That said, yesterday I emailed back and forth with Court spokesman Craig Waters about what happens now that the Legislature has passed the second map.

The pacing of this process is what is concerning.  As best as I can tell, Pam Bondi has fifteen days to certify the second map.  In case you haven’t noticed, Bondi has her hands full with that whole hearing-before-the-US Supreme Court-thing, so it may be a few days before Bondi signs-off.  From there, the Florida Supreme Court has thirty days to review the second map.  If they reject it, the justices then have sixty days to draw a new map.

Assuming Bondi signs off on Monday, April 2 and assuming the court takes the full thirty days to reject the map and sixty days to draw new districts, there won’t be a Senate map in place until the first or second week of July, which is well past candidate qualifying and right before when the first ballots go out to early voters.

In other words, chaos.  Yes, it is a worst case scenario, but this is Florida.  When it comes to elections, assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t come to fruition.

Redistricting observers suggest that the Supreme Court isn’t likely to use up all of its clock deciding on and, if necessary, redrawing the Senate map.  However, one issue to be concerned about is that the Supreme Court doesn’t have a playbook to rely upon if it rejects the second Senate map.

I asked Waters what the Supreme Court has in place, from a practical standpoint, if it has to redraw the Senate map. Will the Court  design the maps in the Legislature’s mapping program? Can they hire consultants to assist? If so, do they have a budget for this? Do the justices draw their own individual maps?

Waters said, “That has never happened before, so we will have to wait and see, if it comes to that.”  I pressed further, “So there is nothing in place, as of right now, in case?”

“Basically,” Waters responded, noting it was premature to speculate.

But premature speculation is the cornerstone of good blogging, Mr. Waters.

Some premature speculation is my belief that Chief Judge Charles Canady will still not be happy with the new map because it hasn’t solved the Polk County issue.  And where does Justice Canady hail from?  Polk County.

But Canady is not the only one unhappy with the second Senate map.  The vote in the Republican-dominated House was 61 to 47 in favor.  It would have been worse had Gaetz not threatened retribution if the House embarrassed the Senate.

In the face of this some state representatives still voted against the map, including one who would like to serve with Gaetz in the Senate. Denise Grimsley voted against the second Senate map, even though she benefitted as much as anyone from Jack Latvala’s amended version of the map.

Grimsely, echoing increasing criticism that the second Senate map is unfriendly to the state’s agriculture interests, told me, “I am concerned, as are many in counties like Desoto, Glades, Hendry, Hardee, and southern Highlands, that their representation at the state-level will be diminished by inclusion in districts predominantly composed of coastal communities.”

“Though the Supreme Court has not expressed a concern about this basic aspect of representation, linkage with communities of similar concern is a critical part of helping Florida’s redistricting process achieve maximum efficacy in the minds of the citizens,” Grimsley continued. “Many of these same citizens supported passage of Amendment 5 in the belief that communities of interest would finally become a legitimate public policy priority in state-level redistricting.”

Grimsley’s position, if nothing else, reinforces the notion that when it comes to redistricting, it ain’t over yet.  Not by a mile.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.