TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ The Legislature's revised redistricting plan went to the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday as three nonpartisan groups also released an alternative map because they say the lawmaker's do-over still violates new anti-gerrymandering standards.
Attorney General Pam Bondi submitted the Republican-led Legislature's map nine days after lawmakers passed it but before her 15-day deadline. Democrats accused the Republican of delaying action for partisan purposes.
The Supreme Court, though, wasted no time in setting oral argument for April 20.
The justices last month unanimously approved the Legislature's 120-district House map but rejected the 40-district Senate plan by a 5-2 vote. The majority opinion said the Senate map failed to comply with the Fair District standards that voters added to the Florida Constitution through a citizen initiative in 2010.
The Legislature then met in special session to redraw the map, but Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said lawmakers still missed the mark.
“The court gave the Senate a second chance, but the Senate did exactly what it has done in every redistricting cycle _ drawn districts to protect themselves and their political allies rather than protecting the voting rights of Floridians,'' Macnab said in a statement.
She said that's why the League, National Council of La Raza and Florida Common Cause felt compelled to propose an alternate plan. Senate leaders, though, say the new map fixed every flaw cited by the Supreme Court.
Florida Democratic Party spokesman David Bergstein said the Democrats also plan to submit an alternative map. Bergstein said Bondi's delay in submitting the revised Senate map was “a clear partisan attempt to stall the process.'' He noted Bondi sent the initial House and Senate maps to the Supreme Court just a day after they were passed in February.
The justices now have 60 days to redraw the Senate map themselves if they invalidate the Legislature's new proposal. That makes June 4 their constitutional deadline. It's also the day that candidate qualifying begins for this year's elections.
Bondi spokeswoman Jenn Meale declined to comment on the stalling allegation but noted the map was filed before the constitutional deadline.
The Supreme Court ruled the initial Senate map violated the Fair Districts standards in part because it intentionally favored incumbents and Republicans. The justices also found it failed to comply with requirements for districts to be compact and follow political and geographic boundaries whenever feasible.
They singled out eight districts as violating various standards as well as the district renumbering scheme because it favored incumbents. A district's number determines whether its senator will get a two- or four-year term this year to keep the terms staggered.
The Fair Districts groups contend the new map has some of the same problems. The original Senate map didn't place any incumbent in a district with another incumbent. The new version pairs only two incumbents but the groups called that “illusory'' in their statement. That's because Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, has said he will move to a nearby vacant district rather than run against Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
The groups also cite an 11-mile “tentacle'' that reaches between two central Florida districts to pick up Gardiner's home and the splitting of Daytona Beach to reduce the voting strength of the city's black community.
The Democrats and Fair Districts groups also are challenging the Legislature's map for Florida's 27 congressional districts. A Circuit Court trial is scheduled to begin in that case on April 16 in Tallahassee.