Florida Lawmakers Hold Special Session to Redraw Gerrymandered Maps

Florida lawmakers are in Tallahassee today for a special nine-day session to redraw the state’s congressional districts after a state court ruled last month that Republicans had illegally redrawn the districts for their own benefit.

via  Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

Leon County, Florida Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis found in July that state Republicans had created “a shadow redistricting process” that violated the state constitution and “made a mockery of the Legislature’s transparent and open process of redistricting.” He continued, “they might have successfully concealed their scheme and their actions from the public had it not been for the Plaintiffs’ determined efforts to uncover it in this case.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida brought the lawsuit challenging the redistricting plan, arguing that state Republicans had drawn congressional districts with the purpose of favoring GOP-candidates in violation of the Fair Districts Amendments to the state constitution, specifically intended to prohibit this kind of gerrymandering. Judge Lewis agreed, finding that the congressional redistricting plan was constitutionally invalid and ordering two districts, District 5 and District 10 to be redrawn as well as any other district affected by the redrawing. District 5 is currently held by Democrat Corrine Brown, and District 10 is held by Republican Dan Webster.

Florida state legislators now have until Aug 15 to redraw a map. Judge Terry, in a subsequent order, stressed that “time is of the essence,” and noted that Florida’s 2014 election could be delayed. “Even if a revised map was in place today,” Lewis wrote, “the legal and logistical machinations it would take to have the election take place on November 4th under that revised map is not something justified by law or common sense. There is just no way, legally or logistically, to put in place a new map, amend the various deadlines and have elections on November 4th, as prescribed by Federal law.”

After the deadline, Judge Terry will consider evidence concerning the “legal and logistical obstacles to holding delayed elections for affected districts in 2014.” Legislators expect to close the special session by Tuesday, August 12, according to a report by the Tampa Bay Times.

Media Resources: Tampa Bay Times 8/7/14, 7/10/14; Scribd; Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit (Leon County, FL)

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