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Lawmakers ordered to redraw map for August special election

Legislature must submit a revised plan before August 15, judge rules

Miami Times staff report | 8/7/2014, 9 a.m.
The Florida Legislature has until Aug. 15 to submit a revised map of its flawed congressional map and must propose ...
2014 Florida Congressional Map

The Florida Legislature has until Aug. 15 to submit a revised map of its flawed congressional map and must propose a special election for congressional districts that were affected by changes made by political operatives.

That's the ruling by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, who gave the order last Friday and drew applause from a coalition of voters groups, led by the League of Women Voters. The groups filed the lawsuit accusing conservative lawmakers of violating the Fair Districts rules when they redrew the congressional map.

The groups took the issue to court, where Lewis ruled on July 10 that the state’s congressional redistricting maps were invalid. He declared districts held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden.

The ruling means lawmakers must schedule a special session to approve the new map before the court's deadline, or they could appeal the order or ask a higher court to stay the ruling.

Lewis agreed with the Legislature’s lawyers, saying that it is impossible to put the new map in place in time for the Nov. 4 elections, as mandated by Federal law. Lewis hinted at pushing the date back to allow for a special election in the affected districts.

He agreed that the Legislature should redraw the map and suggested that a revised map be in place by Aug. 21. That would mean legislators would have to meet in a special session to approve the new maps that would go before voters at the polls.

"The cure should not be worse for the patient than the illness. To develop a new map and hold a special election for some congressional representatives would cost more money, would place additional burdens on our election officials and might confuse some voters," Lewis wrote. "On the other hand, to do nothing, when you could, means that you lessen the ability of many citizens to fairly elect representatives of their choice — which is the effect of political gerrymandered districts."

The Legislature lawyers had argued that changing the map before the November elections would be an unnecessary remedy that would cause "horrific uncertainty" for voters.

Lewis scheduled an Aug. 20 hearing to give legislators a final opportunity to dissuade him from setting a special election.