Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rod Smith blasts Florida GOP on eve of new redistricting session

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Rod Smith
  • Rod Smith
As the Florida Legislature reconvenes to re-tackle redistricting — just five days after ending its regular 2011 legislative session — Florida Democratic party chair Rod Smith came out guns a blaze a day before the new session began, saying that Democrats will offer their own redistricting map.

On Friday the state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in upholding the House map, but invalidated eight of the 40 Senate districts. The Court said the Senate map violated the state's constitution by intentionally favoring incumbents and the Republican Party, including districts that were not compact and failing to follow political and geographic boundaries whenever feasible.

The Florida Fair District Amendments passed in 2010 call for congressional and legislative districts to be drawn in a fair and contiguous fashion.

The ruling also faulted the Senate for relying solely on voting-age population in attempting to comply with another provision that protects the ability of racial and language minorities to elect legislators of their choice.

On a conference call with Florida reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Smith said the Senate map rejected by the court was "rife with evidence of incumbent protection," particularly because there wasn't one incumbent senator forced into re-election against another incumbent, as is the case with several state House seats that did receive the seal of approval from the court.

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, who co-chaired the public hearings held throughout the state on redistricting, has been claiming after the court struck down the Senate version that the score is now 32-8, referring to the eight Senate districts that the court said were in violation of the law. Smith countered that an entirely newly crafted map must be submitted, because other districts will be affected anyhow. "The score is not 32-8, " he said. "It's 0 and 1."

Smith also criticized Florida Republicans for refusing to have a trial judge review a map of the newly drawn-up congressional maps. "They want an election without reference to whether or not the congressional maps are constitutional and kick them down the road....no one in our view should be allowed to occupy a congressional seat that violates the constitution, " he said. Florida Democrats have sued to reverse those maps, saying they violate Amendment 6 on the 2010 ballot regarding the redrawing of congressional seats. And as to the argument that there simply isn't enough time in 2012 to make changes to that map, Smith said they should have spent more time drawing the map correctly to start with.

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