The knock-down fight over the political future of the Florida Senate entered its third round this week as lawyers for the coalition of voting groups accused Republican lawmakers of conspiring again to protect incumbents, while the Legislature’s lawyers accused opponents of “operating in the shadows” to help Democrats. The Senate’s map “smacks of partisan intent” because it failed to maximize population and respect political boundaries, “while offering unmistakable benefits for the Republican Party and incumbents,” wrote the lawyers for the coalition plaintiffs, led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida. But the lawyers for the Republican-led Senate and House blasted the plaintiffs for relying on map drawing experts who had ties to Democrats and therefore drew maps that “systematically” benefited Democrats.
The sparring legal briefs, filed late in the evening Wednesday, offered a glimpse at the arguments in the Senate redistricting trial scheduled Dec. 14-18, before Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds.
Lawmakers tried and failed to adopt a Senate map for the 2016 elections during a three-week special session that ended early this month, so the job was handed to Reynolds, who has asked each side to present alternative maps.
The coalition named the incumbents they believed were protected by the proposed Senate map — including Miami Sens. Anitere Flores and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, and Panhandle Sen. Greg Evers and Rep. Matt Gaetz, who wants to succeed his father, Sen. Don Gaetz — and said the Legislature failed to enact a Senate map during its special session “because of partisanship, self-interest and palace intrigue,” a reference to the Republican infighting over the future Senate presidency.