From: Ellen Freidin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: January 21, 2016 at 8:51:35 AM EST
Subject: No Appeal...Our Senate Map is FINAL!
Yesterday the Senate announced that the Legislature will not appeal Judge Reynolds' adoption of the Senate district map submitted by the FairDistricts Coalition!
That's right - NO APPEAL!
Over 5 years ago, 63% of Florida voters - Republicans and Democrats alike -- amended our state constitution to outlaw the drawing of districts to favor political parties or incumbents. We all knew that rigging districts to favor the politicians was just plain wrong. But we needed to make it illegal. And we did!
Sadly, the legislative leaders did not get the message. Intentionally ignoring the amendments, they drew Senate and Congressional districts that blatantly violated the language we worked so hard to put in our Constitution. As President Obama lamented in his State of the Union address last week, they continued choosing their voters, rather than the other way around. But in Florida, that sordid practice is now unconstitutional.
The President challenged citizens to band together to fight gerrymandering. Well, for once my friends, Florida is ahead of other states!
Make no mistake, for the first time in Florida's history, we now have Senate and Congressional maps that give Floridians the opportunity to elect Senators and Congressional Representatives that reflect the political choices of voters - not legislators.
In other words, YOU are one of the citizens the President was talking about - only YOU got the memo long before he made his speech!
Because of your contributions (money and work), Florida is way ahead of the vast majority of states. We have done something about this pernicious problem of gerrymandering. We have changed Florida in a monumental way.
So, many of you are asking if there is anything more for us to do. The Senate map is final and written in stone by a court order and will be used this year and until the next redistricting in 2022. And when the map is redrawn after the next census, this map will be the basis for the next.
The Congressional map has also been finally approved. But one member of Congress is asking a federal court to take us back to the old gerrymandered districts. Oral argument in that case will not be until March 25. However, we are very confidant that this challenge will not succeed and the approved map will stand in place until 2022 as well.
You know, our success here is a monument to the power of people over politics.
But it is also a monument to the skill, dedication and commitment of our extraordinary legal team.
David King has led our fight in court. His small law firm has had, in many instances, to decline other work so that they could devote their time to this very important litigation. They have had to advance money for costs of expert witnesses, depositions, trial exhibits and more. And they have done their work with unparalleled excellence - working nights, weekends, and sacrificing holidays with their families. We must finish paying them for all they have done
Please make a contribution to help defray the cost of this litigation.
You contribution now will make a difference. Your continued support will help us finish the last remaining legal fight and it will help pay the bills for the battles we have won.
Your contribution will be a sign of your support and appreciation for all our legal team has done!
As always, I send my deepest appreciation for your deep commitment to democracy. And I hope you can and will help us finish this off!
All the best,
Ellen Freidin, Esquire
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
SENATE WON'T APPEAL REDISTRICTING RULING
By BRANDON LARRABEE
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, January 20, 2016.......... Clearing the way for elections later this year with a map that could boost Democrats' numbers in the Senate, Republican leaders decided Wednesday not to appeal a Leon County judge's ruling setting districts for the chamber's 40 seats.
The decision ends a four-year legal and political battle over Senate district lines and closes out state judges' roles in the redistricting process. There is still a federal lawsuit playing out over a congressional map set to be used in the November elections.
A spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said Wednesday that Gardiner made the decision after conversations with Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.
"President Gardiner and Chair Galvano have been meeting with the legal team and discussing the Senate's options for the last few weeks," spokeswoman Katie Betta said. "As a result of these conversations, Chair Galvano's recommendation to President Gardiner was that the Senate not move forward with an appeal of Judge Reynolds' decision."
Galvano said the decision to let Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds' ruling stand was made Wednesday.
"At this point, with the lines themselves, I think the members of the Senate are ready to have closure with regard to those lines," Galvano, who also serves as Senate majority leader, told reporters. "We want to do our work this session and then pivot into the political season."
Last month, Reynolds ruled that the state should go forward with a Senate map crafted by a coalition of voting-rights organizations that included the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida. Those two organizations have waged a years-long legal fight against the Legislature's redistricting plans for the state Senate and Florida's delegation to the U.S. House.
Last summer, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the congressional plan for violating a voter-approved ban on political gerrymandering. Shortly after that ruling, lawmakers reached a settlement in which they conceded the Senate map would also likely be found unconstitutional. Special sessions to redraw each map failed, leading to the courts making the final decisions.
In each case, judges sided with the voting-rights groups. In a statement issued late Wednesday, one of the organizations' lawyers hailed the Senate's move.
"In 2010, Florida voters sent a strong message to the Legislature: stop drawing districts to favor yourselves and your parties. Just over five years later, we are thrilled to be able to say that the voters' wishes have been granted," lawyer David King said. "With the Legislature's decision not to appeal Judge Reynolds' final judgment, in 2016 Floridians will for the first time have the opportunity to vote in legally drawn Senate districts that fully comply with the Fair Districts Amendments."
The map chosen by Reynolds could threaten Republicans' grip on power in Tallahassee, where the GOP controls the governor's office, Cabinet and the Legislature.
In 2008, 20 of the districts in the map Reynolds chose would have favored Democrats and 20 would have favored Republicans. Republicans would have enjoyed a 22-18 advantage in 2010, but Democrats would have held a 21-19 edge in 2012.
Factors such as candidate quality and when certain districts are up for election could tilt those numbers. Senate terms are staggered, with half of the seats up for election each two years.
Galvano, who is set to take over the Senate presidency after the 2018 elections, said questions still remain about the process lawmakers should go through when redrawing the lines --- questions that could have been answered by the Supreme Court. Lawmakers will draw the lines again in 2022 as part of the normal, once-a-decade redistricting process.
"But in weighing those further questions against the opportunity to have some resolution and to close this matter and then look to resolving any further ambiguities at the next reapportionment, (not appealing) seemed to be the better course," Galvano said.
The only ongoing legal challenge to the current redistricting proposals is a lawsuit filed by Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who says changes to her district would undermine the rights of African-American voters. If they're needed, oral arguments in that case are set to be heard March 25.