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Plaintiffs now say they’re filing their own Senate district map

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The “coalition plaintiffs” in the state Senate redistricting challenge announced Tuesday night they were submitting their own redrawn district map – weeks after the chair of the chamber’s redistricting panel invited them to participate in the mapmaking process.

The Senate set up its own map on Tuesday for a Wednesday vote, one that combined a version of South Florida districts drawn by GOP state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla with a base map of the rest of the state favored by Senate Reapportionment Committee chair Bill Galvano.

On the floor Tuesday, Galvano mentioned that he had asked the plaintiffs – including the League of Women Voters of Florida – to help senators draw a map.

“We afforded an opportunity, frankly, to the plaintiffs to join us at the committee level to come and share their thoughts and ideas,” he said. “We were told they were not going to join us.”

But in a letter to Galvano and House redistricting chair Jose Oliva that was released Tuesday night, attorney David King wrote that his clients now would be offering a “more (constitutionally) compliant alternative” that splits fewer cities and better follows geographic boundaries.

By 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, that plan still had not been filed, according to the Senate’s redistricting website.

The Senate’s map “creates a more favorable map for Republicans,” King wrote.

He also noted criticism earlier this week by “some senators” that, among other things, the Senate’s map now under consideration favors incumbents in violation of the state constitution’s Fair Districts amendments. That was a cloaked reference to state Sens. Tom Lee and Jack Latvala.

For instance, Diaz de la Portilla’s changes, adopted Tuesday, were ostensibly meant to ensure Hispanic representation but also happen to make sure he wouldn’t have to run against fellow Republican Miami-Dade incumbent Anitere Flores.

Such a move “cannot be ignored,” King wrote, adding that the plaintiffs’ map will prove that “the Legislature can do far better.”

Earlier in the day, Diaz de la Portilla told reporters the plan being voted on “is a map that is compliant” with constitutional safeguards against gerrymandering, and is “what the people of Miami-Dade County need.”

But that map also keeps other districts that Democrats and others had contested, including one that crosses Tampa Bay, a move frowned upon by the Florida Supreme Court in a similar case over congressional redistricting.

The Legislature is in Special Session for the third time this year, this time to fix the state Senate districts. The map was first redone after the 2010 census.

But voting-rights groups sued, claiming the districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans and incumbents. The Senate settled the suit by admitting fault and agreeing to redraw the lines.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, has said the map, even as now amended, is constitutionally sound.

 

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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