Supreme Court orders oral arguments in redistricting case

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The Florida Supreme Court wants to hear from both sides one more time as a congressional redistricting lawsuit draws to a close.

The court on Wednesday ordered oral argument in the case at 2 p.m. on Nov. 2.

The justices will consider the map recommended by a lower court judge as it wraps up the challenge from the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and a group of Democratic-leaning voters.

They had sued over the current congressional lines, redrawn after the 2010 census, saying the existing map violates a state constitutional prohibition against gerrymandering, the manipulation of political boundaries to favor a particular incumbent or party.

Voters in 2010 passed the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments to prohibit such gerrymandering. The suit pitted the Florida House and Senate, which drew the map, against the plaintiffs. 

The case worked its way to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled that the current map was “tainted by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbents.”

The high court gave 100 days for lawmakers to come up with a solution, and that time runs out in mid-October. The House and Senate failed to agree on a map during a Special Session this summer, throwing it back into the courts.

More recently, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis endorsed the map drawn by the League and Common Cause as the new boundary lines for the state’s 27 congressional districts.

That still must be approved by the Supreme Court, which has the last say in the case.

Among other changes, the map redraws the 5th Congressional District, now held by Democrat Corinne Brown of Jacksonville, from a north-south district into an east-west one.

That cuts into U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham‘s 2nd District, excising much of Graham’s Democratic base in Gadsden, Jefferson and Leon counties.

The map also confines Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly‘s 13th Congressional District to the Pinellas County side of Tampa Bay, and keeps Democratic U.S. Rep.  Kathy Castor‘s 14th District seat to the Hillsborough County side.

If OK’d by the Supreme Court, the change makes the 13th’s political makeup more strongly Democratic and thus even more likely that Pinellas resident and former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, will run for the seat in 2016.

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.