A trial that will decide the fate of Florida’s 40 state Senate districts and shape the political future of the state began Monday in Leon County circuit court under a pressing deadline to have the districts in place for the 2016 elections. The trial is only expected to last a week but the case will also be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court. An attorney for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections said Senate maps need to be in place by “mid-March” to allow time for supervisors of elections to conform the new districts to ballots for each precinct ahead of primary elections in August. In opening statements, lawyers for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, the voting rights groups challenging the Republican-controlled Legislature’s maps, said they’ll show that lawmakers rigged the process again, just as they did with congressional districts, to favor the GOP. “This is simply business as usual in the Legislature,” said League of Women Voters attorney David King.
Raoul Cantero, the Senate lawyer and a former Florida Supreme Court justice, said the maps offered by the plaintiffs were drawn by a Democratic operative and the Legislature is being held to an unfair standard that doesn’t apply to the voters rights groups.
Knowing the courts would likely pick the best map submitted, the voter groups were able to submit maps after lawmakers had drafted theirs as a way to game the system, he complained.