The latest chapter in Florida’s redistricting saga played out Thursday in a Leon County courtroom as two Miami congressional districts emerged as the heart of the differences over which of seven maps should be the one chosen by the court. Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis must decide which map, or pieces of maps, he will recommend to the Florida Supreme Court by the Oct. 17 deadline. The court invalidated the map drawn by the Legislature in 2012 because it violated the constitutional ban on protecting incumbents and political parties. After the Legislature reached a stalemate in a special session, the high court ordered Lewis to choose from proposals from the House, Senate and the group of voters who successfully challenged the original map.
The hearing is scheduled to end Monday as lawyers for the House and Senate defend their separate plans while lawyers for the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals argue that the judge should accept their changes to the House and Senate proposals.
Although Republicans have been united in their defense of their maps until now, the arguments before the court revealed a broadening divide between Republicans in the two chambers — and a harbinger of the fight ahead over the redrawing of the Senate map.
The House argues that its map, drawn by three Republican legislative staffers as a base for the discussion, is the purer one and devoid of partisan intent. “The evidence is going to show not a shred of proof that political intent affected any of the base map,” said George Meros, lawyer for the House. “When the House made improvements to the base map in the light of day all it did was add to the metrics of the map.”