Expect a review of Florida’s proposed legislative maps to be completed sooner than expected.
Florida Supreme Court canceled any argument on newly passed mapping of Florida’s 20 Senate districts and 120 House districts.
The Senate adopted on February 3 a bill combining both the Senate map (S9058) and the plan of the house (H8013) in a single piece of legislation. Attorney General Ashley Moody on February 9, asked the Supreme Court for a high-level review of the maps and sought summary judgment.
The court left a case open for any interested party to challenge the cards, but a midnight deadline passed on Monday night without any party filing an objection. On this basis, the redistricting case was submitted to the judges of the court for consideration without hearing the arguments.
Speaker Chris Sprows As the House session ended on Tuesday, no arguments against the cards were filed, even though most House Democrats voted against the cards and argued they would not pass scrutiny constitutional.
“There were those who said our State House map was gerrymandered,” said Sprows, a Republican from Palm Harbor. “He said it was totally unconstitutional, that the card was indefensible. More disturbing insinuations have been made. I called him (to ask him) about the integrity of some of our members, and worse, some of our employees who worked on redistricting maps.
It left Sprows surprised that no one is making the same accusations in actual high court arguments.
“Not a single group, not a single individual has challenged a single House district in the Florida Supreme Court,” Sprows said.
Nicholas Warrenan ACLU attorney who has closely followed the redistricting process said it marked the first time a legislative apportionment went unopposed at this point since automatic review of the maps by the Florida Supreme Court was first mandated in 1968.
Meanwhile, Rep. Joseph Gellerthe ranking Democrat on the House Redistricting Committee, defended charges that the maps were unconstitutional while failing to raise the same objection in legal documents.
House Democrats throughout the redistricting process have argued that the fact that the final map has the same number of minority access seats, 30, that was on the map a decade ago , despite the disproportionate growth of Florida’s Hispanic population, meant that the maps did not provide an adequate representation of these communities.
But Geller also noted that when the Florida Senate and Congress cards were thrown out of court last decade, it took three years, until 2015, for opponents to prove their case.
“If the House map is thrown out because it is constitutionally deficient under fair districts, or because it violates the Voting Rights Act, it will be after a full trial with all the facts in the sun. It probably wouldn’t be after the extremely limited review available in the Florida Supreme Court right now,” Geller said. “This is particularly the case given the extremely tight schedule the Court is operating under for this initial review. Filing a case with the Supreme Court would have only delayed the proceedings and slowed access to a trial.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but that may be why no one in the state has filed comments or briefs in this proceeding. If anyone wants to know where we stand on the maps, they need only look at the full record we’ve put together in committees and in the House to see our concerns about packing and cracking minority voters , the lack of protection for linguistic minority voters and, in fact, the whole redistribution process in the House.
Sprows, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the cards will survive scrutiny now and in the future.
“I’m confident they will see the hard work that has been done in faithful adherence to the law that gave birth to the house card,” he said. “I would like to congratulate all of the committee members who worked on the map of the house, who participated in the creation of the map. For those individuals or groups, or who represented individuals who said these maps were unconstitutional, that they were indefensible, I hope they will recognize the mistake they made and recognize the great work carried out.
Florida Politics reporter Renzo Downey contributed to this report.