TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) — The Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday over redistricting maps the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature has drawn for itself, less than two weeks before the March 9 deadline for the justices to rule.

In the first segment of arguments, a Florida Democratic Party lawyer said the Legislature redistricted itself “in the dark.”

Former House Speaker Jon Mills told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday that’s because the justices have not yet interpreted a new state constitutional amendment on redistricting.

Mills urged them to do so and then send the maps back to lawmakers to try again.

Lawyers for the House and Senate argued that’s not necessary because the maps fully comply with the anti-gerrymandering amendment.

The amendment and one like it for congressional redistricting prohibit lawmakers from intentionally favoring incumbents or political parties.

The Fair Districts amendments also protect minority voting rights and require lines to follow existing geographic and political boundaries if feasible. House and Senate lawyers say the maps meet those requirements.

Lawyers for the Florida Democratic Party, three nonpartisan groups that helped sponsor the amendments and the city of Lakeland contend the maps violate some or all of the standards.

Democrats said the redistricting maps protect Republican majorities in the state, even though the state has more registered Democrats than Republicans.

The lawsuits listed seven districts as violating the new constitutional rules.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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