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Judge invalidates Senate districts

A judge declared Marion County's four new state Senate districts invalid Wednesday, saying they are unconstitutional because they split the county and leave it without a home seat.

"The fragmentation and splintering of Marion County clearly has a substantial detrimental impact on the citizens," Circuit Judge Jack Singbush wrote in his ruling, rejecting a legislative redistricting plan passed in March.

The plan divides Marion County into four districts, with Ocala split by three of them. The lawsuit said those divisions give county residents little voice in the Legislature, violating the Florida Constitution's equal protection clause.

"This is not a mere dilution of votes, the voters of Marion County have been completely and utterly disenfranchised," Singbush wrote. He said, "Marion County's citizens have been and will continue to be a mere borrow pit."

The state is expected to appeal. The usual step would be for the case to go to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach, although an expedited appeal could take it directly to the Florida Supreme Court.