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Democrats to offer up alternative Senate map; argue entire map needs rewrite

Florida Democratic Party leader Rod Smith said Tuesday that Democrats will submit an alternative redistricting map for legislators to consider when it convenes in a two-week special session starting Wednesday. He also vigorously disagreed with Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz that the Senate needs to fix only 8 of the 40 districts. 

"An entire redrawing of the Senate map is necessary in order to comply with the court’s unprecedented order,'' Smith told reporters Tuesday in a conference call. "There is no such thing as tweaking the map."

Gaetz said Friday, hours after the Florida Supreme Court voted 5-2 to reject the Senate reapportionment map, that he believes the Senate must change just eight of the 40 districts ruled invalid by the court because those were the only districts in which the court detailed problems.

"We're not starting with a clean sheet of paper, as some of our critics wanted us to," said Gaetz, R-Niceville. "We're starting I think with a roadmap that will help us get where we need to go."

But Smith said the 234-page ruling from the court not only invalidated the entire Senate map, ruled the method by which they numbered districts was evidence of incumbency protection, and singled out eight districts for their specific violations.  

"Contrary to what Sen. Gaetz suggests, the score is not 32 to 8. The score is zero to one,'' Smith said. "If the Senate doesn't get it right this time, the score will be zero and two. Frankly, the Senate will not get a third shot in writing a map."

In the ruling, the court established guidelines by which legislators should adhere when drawing their districts and said that the House map on its face appeared to comply with those guidelines the Senate map, by contrast, “is rife with objective indicators of improper intent which, when considered in isolation do not amount to improper intent, but when viewed cumulatively demonstrate a clear pattern.”

Smith said that in proposing a new map the Senate Democrats are going to take "a very different delegation approach to this." In the first round, seven of the Senate's 12 Democrats voted for the failed Senate map which protected the districts of each of the returning incumbents.

Because the court called out the districts drawn for Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauerdale, and Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, the new map will have to make significant changes in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Smith said, which will have an impact on more Democrats than Republicans.

"I took the position from Day One that a map is no less unconstitutional simply because Democrats may support incumbency protection than if Republicans supported incumbency protection,'' Smith said.

"A map does not become mysteriously correct just because it has 21 votes,'' Smith said. It also must more carefully adhere to the court's guidelines in following geographic boundaries, compact districts and drawing minority districts in the most compact way possible.

"Our map will not be designed to get votes, our map will be to implement the will of the people,'' he said.