House passes Florida redistricting maps in party line vote

Published Feb. 4, 2012

TALLAHASSE — The Florida House voted along party lines for three redistricting maps Friday that proponents say reflect the state's growing diversity and meet new antigerrymandering standards.

Democrats, united in opposition in the 80-38 vote, said the proposals manipulate boundaries for Republican advantage, particularly a Senate map that appears to protect returning incumbents.

Despite the criticism, House Republican leaders congratulated themselves for finishing the maps with four weeks left in the session.

The maps create two new congressional seats, bringing the total to 27, and are intended to increase the number of elected Hispanics.

House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, accused Democrats of criticizing the maps as part of a strategy to challenge them in court.

"To create any type of political outcome violates the letter of the law, so we're not going to do it, and we didn't do it,'' Weatherford said.

While the Senate and congressional maps appear to spare incumbents, the House map pits at least 38 lawmakers against each other next November, forcing them to move, run for another elective office, end their careers or run against each other.

"I hope I'm not the only one moving,'' joked Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. "I hope it'll help the housing market here in Florida."

The House and Senate maps will go to the Senate next week for expected approval. They will then be reviewed by the attorney general and sent to the Florida Supreme Court, which gets 30 days to either approve them or send them back to lawmakers.

The congressional map will go to the governor, who will have seven days to sign it and submit it to the U.S. Justice Department for the required Voting Rights Act review.

The Republican-led legislature fast-tracked redistricting so that if the court rejects the maps, lawmakers can rewrite them before they adjourn on March 9.