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Redistricting's incumbency protection test: How Senate numbers its districts

As Florida lawmakers reconvene Wednesday for a two-week special session to redraw the Senate maps, one question remains: Will they be able to stop themselves from protecting incumbents?

That question may be answered best by looking at one simple test: how the Senate numbers its districts.

Armed with new redistricting standards approved by voters in 2010, the Florida Supreme Court threw out the Senate’s first proposed map last week on the grounds that it “was rife with indicators of improper intent” and included a district numbering scheme that “plainly favors certain incumbents.”

Because of the once-a-decade reapportionment process, all 40 of the Senate districts will be up for re-election this year. Depending on how the numbering is handled, many senators could get an automatic advantage that gives them the opportunity to serve a longer term than the eight years prescribed by term limits.

In its 5-2 decision, the court established guidelines legislators should adhere to when drawing their districts and said that the House redistricting map appeared to comply with those guidelines. The Senate map, the court said, did not.

The court said the Senate’s map included eight districts that clearly violated the Florida Constitution’s Fair Districts amendments and included a numbering scheme with a “built-in bias” that favored incumbents. Keep reading here.