Ruling suggests broad redistricting case

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With about a week to go until oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court over the state’s plan for legislative redistricting, justices are already fighting about how far the court can go in reviewing the new maps, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

In what could amount to a victory for opponents of the proposal for carving up House and Senate districts (SJR 1176), the court issued an order Tuesday calling for the Florida Democratic Party and a coalition of voting-rights organizations to hand over information they had on lawmakers’ residences.

The court said it would then ask Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Legislature to review the addresses and make sure they’re correct.

Democrats and the voting-rights groups — including the League of Women Voters, the National Council of La Raza and Common Cause Florida — contend that the lawmakers violated the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts provisions in the constitution by protecting incumbents.

“In order for the Court to properly carry out its duties in evaluating this constitutional standard, it is necessary that the Court be provided with information concerning the residences of legislators,” the majority said in a 4-3 ruling.

The unsigned opinion was joined by Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, Jorge Labarga and James Perry.

But in a sharply-worded dissent, Chief Justice Charles Canady said the majority was overstepping its bounds in what has traditionally been a limited review of the once-a-decade redistricting process making sure that the plan passed the most basic tests, such as ensuring that all districts are contiguous.

“Nothing in the Constitution permits us to employ an interrogative process such as that undertaken by the majority,” Canady wrote.

Justice Ricky Polston joined Canady’s dissent. Justice Fred Lewis dissented without comment.

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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.