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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Senate has not ruled out appeal to court's redistricting ruling

31

December

The Florida Legislature has not ruled out appealing Wednesday's state court decision to set new Senate districts that could bolster Democratic chances at the ballot box in 2016.

"We have not foreclosed the option to appeal on the state or federal level," said State Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who led the Senate's redistricting plan which a judge dismissed in favor of a plan presented by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

Galvano said Thursday the Senate is also exploring a legal option to request a rehearing of the redistricting case.

Similarly, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who on Wednesday issued a statement proclaiming the maps are set, said he never intended to suggest an appeal was off the table. He said the decision is under legal review and any decision will be up to current Senate President Andy Gardiner and the Senate's legal team. Negron said he was just trying to make it clear Republicans were prepared to fight to hold their majority in the Florida Senate in 2016 regardless of the way the map has been crafted.

Republicans currently hold 26 seats in the Senate while Democrats hold 14. Under the redistricting plan Circuit Judge George Reynolds approved Wednesday, President Barack Obama in 2012 carried the majority of the vote in 21 of 40 seats, according to an analyst by Democratic data consultant Matthew Isbell. That would, on paper, give Democrats improved chances to win current GOP-held districts.

Galvano, an attorney, said there are issues in Reynolds ruling from Wednesday that could merit an appeal. He said the way the process of redistricting was handled by the courts and even how minority-access districts were drawn in South Florida both are being reviewed with the Senate's legal counsel. Under the redistricting plan Reynolds approved, one South Florida district represented now by Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, would see the black voting age population decline enough that it could affect whether and African-American can win the seat in the future.

An appeal would extend the already long-running redistricting saga that has raged for almost three years. It has cost taxpayers more than $8 million in legal fees and resulted in two acrimonious special sessions of the Florida Legislature that produced maps for Congressional districts and Florida Senate districts that the courts have refused to accept because of constitutional flaws.

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[Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2015 5:05pm]

    

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