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Florida's redistricting battle opens again in court: A game of thrones

If the legions of lawyers were armed with swords and clad in medieval dress, the state’s latest redistricting fight could be Florida’s Game of Thrones.

The epic struggle for the control of Florida’s congressional map comes to center stage in a Tallahassee courtroom on Monday, complete with intertwining plot lines, side battles and, like any ancient drama, the quest for power — getting it and keeping it.

The 2012 congressional map drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature is being challenged by a coalition of Democratic-leaning groups and seven individuals led by the League of Women Voters — referred to as the “League of Women Vipers” in emails from Republican political consultants.

But this is no fantasy tale. Experts say it is likely to be one of the most precedent-setting trials in state history as the court takes on a new role as the extra eyes on the redistricting process because of the Fair Districts rules etched into the Florida Constitution by voters in 2010.

For the first time, the rules prohibit lawmakers from drawing maps to benefit incumbents or political parties, and the new districts must adhere to geographic and political boundaries. The court will decide if the Republicans in power will hold onto the political boundaries for the rest of the decade, or be forced to draw a new one that could favor more Democrats.

“Florida voters said to the Legislature: you get to keep the pen, but we’re going to have the court looking over your shoulder,’’ said Justin Levitt, a redistricting expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, who maintains the website, All About Redistricting.

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