597 So.2d 276 (Fla. 1992), 79674, In re Senate Joint Resolution 2G, Special Apportionment Session 1992

Docket Nº:79674.
Citation:597 So.2d 276, 17 Fla. L. Weekly S 283
Opinion Judge:Author: Grimes
Attorney:Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General; Richard E. Doran, Assistant Deputy Attorney General; Gerald B. Curington, Senior Assistant Attorney General and George L. Waas, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Legal Affairs, Tallahassee, Florida, on behalf of the Attorney General; Stephen N. Zac...
Case Date:May 13, 1992
Court:Supreme Court of Florida

Page 276

597 So.2d 276 (Fla. 1992)

17 Fla. L. Weekly S 283

In re Constitutionality of SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 2G,


No. 79674.

Supreme Court of Florida.

May 13, 1992

Page 277

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen., Richard E. Doran, Asst. Deputy Atty. Gen., Gerald B. Curington, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen. and George L. Waas, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Legal Affairs, Tallahassee, on behalf of Atty. Gen.

Stephen N. Zack, Norman C. Powell and Scott L. Warfman, Zack, Hanzman, Ponce & Tucker, Miami, on behalf of Fla. Senate.

Kevin X. Crowley and James A. Peters, Cobb, Cole & Bell, Tallahassee, on behalf of Fla. House of Representatives.

Mark S. Levine, Tallahassee, on behalf of Simon Ferro, State Chairman, Fla. Democratic Party.

George N. Meros, Jr., Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, Tallahassee, and E. Thom Rumberger and Daniel J. Gerber, Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, Orlando, on behalf of interested parties: Miguel DeGrandy, Andy Ireland, Van B. Poole, Republican Party of Fla., Luis Rojas, Javier Souto, Alberto Cardenas, Luis Morse, Karen E. Butler, Jean Van Meter, Robert Woody, Mario Diaz-Balart, Casimer Smericki, Terry Ketchel, Rodolfo Garcia, Jr., Roberto Casas,

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Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Justo Luis Pozo, Rey Velazquez, Alberto Gutman, Sgt. Augusta Carter, Ana M. Pinnellas and Carlos Valdes.

Larry K. White, Tallahassee, and Brenda Wright, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington, D.C., on behalf of interested parties: Gwen Humphrey, Vivian Kelly, Gerald Adams, Wilmateen W. Chandler, Dr. Percy L. Goodman, Jesse L. Nipper, Moease Smith and Carolyn L. Williams.

Parker D. Thomson and Carol A. Licko, Thomson, Muraro & Razook, P.A., Miami, on behalf of Common Cause.

Charles G. Burr, Charles G. Burr, P.A., Tampa, Harry L. Lamb, Perry & Lamb, P.A., Orlando, and Dennis Courtland Hayes and Willie Abrams, NAACP Sp. Contribution Fund, Baltimore, Md., on behalf of Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.

Henry C. Hunter and Charles E. Vanture, Tallahassee, and Rodney G. Gregory, Law Offices of Rodney G. Gregory, Jacksonville, on behalf of interested parties: Darryl Reaves, Corrine Brown and James Hargarett.

Betty T. Ferguson, President of People's Positive Action Council (UP-PAC), Miami.

GRIMES, Justice.

This is an original proceeding in which the attorney general petitions this Court for a declaratory judgment determining the validity of Senate Joint Resolution 2G apportioning the legislature of the State of Florida. We have jurisdiction under article III, section 16(c) of the Florida Constitution, which provides:

(c) JUDICIAL REVIEW OF APPORTIONMENT. Within fifteen days after the passage of the joint resolution of apportionment, the attorney general shall petition the supreme court of the state for a declaratory judgment determining the validity of the apportionment. The supreme court, in accordance with its rules, shall permit adversary interests to present their views and, within thirty days from the filing of the petition, shall enter its judgment.

The Florida Legislature began preparing for the 1992 reapportionment in 1988. Each chamber hired separate expert technical staff and provided them with state-of-the-art computer systems. Committees on Reapportionment in both chambers were appointed in 1991 and charged with the responsibility of aiding the legislature in developing legislative and congressional plans. The House and Senate cohosted 32 public hearings throughout the state between September 19, 1991, and December 4, 1991. Their purpose was to increase public awareness on reapportionment and to receive public input prior to the development or adoption of any redistricting or reapportionment plans.

Notwithstanding, the legislature was unable to agree on a plan of legislative reapportionment during the regular 1992 session. Pursuant to article III, section 16(a) of the Florida Constitution, the governor then reconvened the legislature in a special apportionment session. During that session, Senate Joint Resolution 2G was adopted. Three days later, on April 13, 1992, the attorney general filed this petition for review of the apportionment plan. Adversary interests have filed briefs presenting their views, and the matter has been orally argued before the Court.

In analyzing the validity of the reapportionment plan, we begin by addressing the issue of the plan's validity under the equal protection standard of one person, one vote. Equal protection requires that state legislatures be apportioned in such a way that each person's vote carries the same weight--that is, that each legislator represents the same number of voters. Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964). This determination necessarily requires an analysis of population figures in each district.

Joint Resolution 2G apportions the state into 120 House districts and 40 Senate districts. 1 Florida's population is 12,937,926. 2

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2] Therefore, the ideal population per single-member House district is 107,816 (the total state population divided by 120 districts). The largest House district is District 80, with a population of 108,460--deviating from the ideal population by 644 people, or 0.60%. The smallest House district is District 111, with a population of 106,317--deviating from the ideal population by 1,499 people, or 1.39%. Therefore, the maximum percentage deviation between the largest and smallest number of people per representative (statistical overall range) is 1.99%.

The ideal population per single-member Senate district is 323,448 (the total state population divided by 40 districts). The largest Senate district is District 31, with a population of 324,815--deviating from the ideal population by 1,367 people, or 0.42%. The smallest Senate district is District 26, with a population of 322,007--deviating from the ideal population by 1,441 people, or 0.45%. Therefore, the maximum percentage deviation between the largest and smallest number of people per senator (statistical overall range) is 0.87%.

Although the districts do not comply precisely with the ideal population per district, mathematical exactness is not a requirement in state apportionment plans. Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 577, 84 S.Ct. at 1389 ("[T]he Equal Protection Clause requires that a State make an honest and good faith effort to construct districts ... as nearly of equal population as is practicable."). In the plan at issue here, the deviations from ideal population are minimal. See Brown v. Thomson, 462 U.S. 835, 842, 103 S.Ct. 2690, 2695, 77 L.Ed.2d 214 (1983) (as a general matter, apportionment plans with a maximum population deviation under 10% fall within the category of minor deviations); Connor v. Finch, 431 U.S. 407, 418, 97 S.Ct. 1828, 1835, 52 L.Ed.2d 465 (1977). We find that the legislature has made a good-faith effort to achieve mathematical preciseness in the districts and has complied with the equal protection requirements of both the Florida and United States Constitutions.

We next address the Florida Constitution's requirement that legislative districts be "either contiguous, overlapping or identical territory." Art. III, Sec. 16(a), Fla. Const. This Court has defined "contiguous" as " 'being in actual contact: touching along a boundary or at a point.' " In re Apportionment Law, Senate Joint Resolution 1 E, 414 So.2d 1040, 1051 (Fla.1982) (quoting Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 245 (1973)). A district lacks contiguity "when a part is isolated from the rest by the territory of another district" or when the lands "mutually touch only at a common corner or right angle." Id.

Several parties challenge the contiguity of four Senate districts--districts 1, 8, 18, and 24. These parties assert that it is impossible to travel throughout these districts without crossing into another district. This impossibility of travel is not strictly a result of the configuration of the districts, however, but rather a result of the lack of roads in some areas or the presence of bodies of water without connecting bridges.

Although a contiguous district has been defined as one in which a person can go from any point within the district to any other point without leaving the district, such a definition does not impose a requirement of a paved, dry road connecting all parts of a district. Contiguity does not require convenience and ease of travel, or travel by terrestrial rather than marine forms of transportation. As the court noted in Mader v. Crowell, contiguity " 'does not mean in contact by land. Certainly, so far as ... islands are concerned, they may be considered contiguous, although separated by wide reaches of navigable deep waters.' " 498 F.Supp. 226, 229 (M.D.Tenn.1980) (emphasis deleted) (quoting Board of Supervisors v. Blacker, 92 Mich. 638, 52 N.W. 951, 953 (1892)). Indeed, given the number of islands included within the territory of Florida, declaring that a district

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lacks contiguity when water separates its parts would invalidate any reapportionment plan that does not make an unconnected island a district in and of itself.

We hold, therefore, that the presence in a district of a body of water without a connecting bridge, even if it necessitates land travel outside the district in order to reach other parts of the district, does not violate this Court's standard for determining contiguity under the Florida Constitution. From our examination of the instant record, including detailed maps, we find that the districts as apportioned in the Joint Resolution satisfy the geographic requirements of the Florida Constitution.

The most contested issue before us is whether the Joint Resolution discriminates against any racial or language minority by minimizing its voting strength. The parties...

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