Florida's third redistricting trial over the congressional map is reaching its close today. It's try No. 3 for Florida lawmakers after the Florida Supreme Court invalidated the congressional map used in the last two elections as being the product of "improper political intent" in violation of the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the state constitution.
Judge Terry Lewis will decide which of the seven maps proposed to him by the GOP-controlled House and Senate, or the variations on those maps drawn by the challengers, will emerge as the final political boundaries voters will see in the November 2016 elections.
At the core of the dispute are two questions: whether the House or Senate used the preferred approach to drawing its map and whether they both intentionally attempted to favor Republicans when they drew two districts in Miami-Dade County.
Lawmakers were handed an unprecedented set of directives in July when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the congressional boundaries used in the 2012 and 2014 elections were invalid because lawmakers had allowed improper interference by political operatives and created congressional districts that illegally favored incumbents and political parties. The court gave them specific guidelines for redrawing eight districts and ordered Lewis to review their work and make a recommendation by Oct. 17.
When lawmakers tried and failed to resolve their differences in an August special session, the court threw it back to Lewis, who had been supervising the case that has cost taxpayers more than $8 million for the last 3-1/2 years.
The challengers, a coalition of League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals, told the court in closing arguments that they agree with 20 of the 27 districts proposed in a staff-drawn base map but want the court to adopt their changes to the remaining districts.
So, after three days of hearings, here are five things we learned and what is left unknown:
Photo: House redistricting committee staff director Jason Poreda speaks with Judge Terry Lewis, courtesy of The Florida Channel.