Lawyers sparred over Florida’s congressional districts in court Thursday, the latest episode of a three-year battle that has left the state without political boundaries for the 2016 election. The case is in court because the Florida Supreme Court threw out the prior maps in July, ruling that GOP operatives had infiltrated the redistricting process and packed Democratic voters in District 5, a skinny district that snaked from Jacksonville to Orlando. Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will now consider as many as seven proposals for the maps submitted by both chambers of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs. The trial will continue into next week, and Lewis will make a final decision and send it to the Supreme Court for review by Oct. 17. Already, litigation and special sessions related to redistricting have cost taxpayers about $11 million.
Attorneys for the League of Women Voters defended their proposal Thursday after attorneys for the Florida House and Senate noted that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reviewed the map before it was filed, a violation of the state constitution’s anti-gerrymandering provisions.
David King, a League of Women Voters attorney, said it didn’t matter whether there was Democratic involvement in its map drawing. The Legislature’s proposed districts are on trial, not the plan from the league, he said.
But lawyers for the Legislature argued it was unfair to apply the prohibition against partisan gerrymandering to lawmakers but not to the plaintiffs.