Voters’ coalition urges judge to reject Senate plan favoring Republicans, adopt one that disrupts Palm Beach County incumbents

Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds has scheduled a Senate redistricting trial for next month.

Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds has scheduled a Senate redistricting trial for next month.

The voters’ coalition challenging state Senate district boundaries shed some light on arguments it will make to a court next month which will consider four proposed maps submitted by the coalition and one by the Republican-led Senate.

In newly filed papers with Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds, the coalition urges him to endorse one of its maps while dismissing the Senate plan as still clouded by partisan politics.

The Senate proposal effectively combines two staff-drawn “base maps” considered during last month’s special session, which ended with the House and Senate failing to agree on a single legislative plan to submit to the court.

“The Senate will declare it to be a mere coincidence that Senate map 1 is more favorable for Republicans than any of the base maps,” wrote David King, attorney for the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause-Florida.

He added, “Purported coincidences benefiting the Republican Party have, of course, abounded in these proceedings.”

In its court filing, the coalition cites problems with the boundaries of many of the 40 Senate districts proposed by the chamber’s leaders.

Generally, the voters’ groups argue that lines were drawn to avoid pairing incumbent Republicans in the same district while casting boundaries that would assure the Republican Party maintained close to its current, 26-14-seat dominance in the chamber.

By contrast, in court documents the coalition said the four maps it has given the court to review are superior — led by one that splits fewer cities than the Senate plan and creates four districts likely to elect an Hispanic in South Florida, compared with three Hispanic seats in the Senate’s own proposal.

The coalition maps also narrows the Democrat-Republican voting split across the 40 districts to an  almost equal balance.

A trial is set for Dec. 14-18 for settling on a proposal that can be sent to the state Supreme Court, which has taken over the line-drawing from the Legislature.

Under the map proposed by the Senate, Palm Beach County would lose a Senate seat — the district currently held by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart — but retain three districts held by Democrats in close to their current configurations.

But those plans submitted by the voters’ coalition could cause more political disruption in the county.

The coalition maps keep a portion of Negron’s district in Palm Beach County and make changes to the three Democratic-held seats.

Negron would take in the county’s northwest area. But Sens. Joe Abruzzo of Wellington and Maria Sachs of Delray Beach could be forced to tangle for a district that includes portions of each lawmaker’s current district.

A western Palm Beach County district, including the Glades area, comprising much of Abruzzo’s district, would loop south into Boca Raton and Broward County, taking in voters Sachs currently serves.

Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth would mostly be unaffected by the coalition’s proposals, retaining most of the area he currently represents in the central county.

The third county Senate seat would include West Palm Beach north to the Martin County line, taking in part of the area Abruzzo now serves. For now, that looks like it could be up for grabs.

 

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