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Legislature won't appeal but will redraw challenged congressional districts -- for 2016

Florida legislative leaders have ended their silence on the rejected congressional map and announced Tuesday they will not appeal the circuit court ruling but agree to redraw the map deemed unconstitutional because of two invalid districts, as long as they can wait until next year.

The voters groups, led by the League of Women Voters, contend that Florida must not run the next elections on a constitutionally-flawed map. They asked Judge Terry Lewis for an expedited hearing to decide how to make the fix and Lewis has scheduled a status conference for Thursday morning.  Download Notice Of Case Management Conference

The legislative leaders, however, whose legal challenge involved months of delay over discovery documents related to GOP political consultants, say the new map should wait. They are asking the court to clarify that the ruling does not apply this year.  Download Legislature's motion re final judgment 

Notably, the Legislature waited until after the overseas absentee ballots were sent on Saturday to announce its decision.

"Any attempt to change the districts at this late stage of the 2014 elections process would cause chaos and confusion and would threaten the rights of our deployed military voters,'' wrote Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, in a statement. 

"It has been the practice in other states and in Florida to remedy maps at a future election so as not to disrupt and disenfranchise voters. We believe such action is appropriate and is in the best interest of Florida, and particularly our deployed military servicemen and servicewomen, who are casting their votes now.”

What happens next is still unknown. The two districts directly affected are held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. Surrounding districts, especially that held by U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Seminole, are also likely to be modified slightly.

Will the court allow for another round of qualifying and therefore another round of ballots in November for the election? Will a remedy be approved in time for this year's elections, or have to wait another two years?

Here's the statement:

Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) today issued the following joint statement regarding the recent court decision issued by Judge Terry Lewis onthe Florida Congressional map.

“We respect the deliberative and thorough manner in which Judge Lewis approached the trial on the Florida Congressional map.

“While the court directed that Congressional Districts 5 and 10 be redrawn, the court rejected the Plaintiffs’ challenge to eight other districts, thereby upholding 25 of 27 congressional districts statewide and leaving intact the vast majority of the actions taken by the Legislature.

“The Legislature does not presently intend to initiate an appeal of the Court's decision and will redraw the boundaries of Congressional Districts 5 and 10.  

“Today, we have asked Judge Lewis to clarify, as a legal and practical matter, that his decision does not affect the administration of the 2014 election.

"According to federal law, over 63,000 Florida military and overseas voters are already casting absentee ballots based on the current Congressional map. Next week, hundreds of thousands of printed absentee ballots will be mailed to in-state voters.

"Any attempt to change the districts at this late stage of the 2014 elections process would cause chaos and confusion and would threaten the rights of our deployed military voters. It has been the practice in other states and in Florida to remedy maps at a future election so as not to disrupt and disenfranchise voters. We believe such action is appropriate and is in the best interest of Florida, and particularly our deployed military servicemen and servicewomen, who are casting their votes now.”

Comments

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ed jenkins

The citizens are pleased that their legislature will not drag out a case that they did not want in the firt place. They ask that this judge put an end immediately to this nonsense of using courts funded by money confiscated from taxpayers to argue over mundane government administrative procedures and that these troublesome cartographers and group that claims to represent one entire sex of voters take this issue up with their local congressman.

Ryan Turner

Can't these maps be drawn automatically? With a few rules, For example, districts must have nearly equal constituents, districts should have the fewest possible corners/sides, and draw according to census data. Run a program, bang, non-partisan, rules-based districts.

PirateCafe

Mr. Jenkins, you're still wrong. You've been wrong on this one issue from the very beginning and continuing to bleat the same tripe over and over doesn't change the fact you've been wrong 100% of the time.

Christopher M. Kennard

It is my hope that citizens all over Florida, be they Democrat, Republican, some other party or an Independent Voter . . . I hope many of us take a moment to get in touch with their local branch of the League of Women Voters, and say a gentle "thank you for public service much needed and very well performed . . . thank you."

Our greatest threat to our freedom, our personal independence and our liberty to choose how to govern this country is from those amongst us who care only for themselves and very few others. The rest of us, all 99% of us, even though we do not always agree on every issue our country is facing, it is our country and we need to keep it that way.

One issue upon which we can all agree is that we must have honest elections that are unquestionable and unrestricted, so all valid registered voters can participate and there are no lingering questions as to whether illegal activities in any way interfered with our election processes.

The League of Women Voters just bestowed a gift to the citizens of Florida of utmost importance by upholding honest elections and how election districts are determined by law. It will be a shame if the Florida Legislature is successful in holding off redesigning all of the district boundaries impacted in this case.

However, voters such as I, who demand honest elections from both the Democratic and Republican Parties, have a remedy immediately at hand to more quickly rectify the situation then Judge Lewis may be able to do.

I am not voting for one incumbent politician running for re-election this year. I am changing my voter registration from Independent to Democrat just to ensure that Charlie Crist engages in primary debates against Nan Rich, a Democrat running for Governor, or faces people like me voting against him. I will then switch back to being an Independent Voter because I believe both political parties in Florida are corrupt, hold back real progress helping average people and families, and can no longer be trusted.

My final one-two punch during these elections is to make sure that I bring at least one other person who may not have otherwise voted with me to go vote on election day. By bringing just even one other registered voter to go vote with me, I thereby "double" my own personal impact in this election.

Can you imagine if just a couple of hundred people in Marion County brought someone with them to go vote who may not have otherwise gone to vote, why some local and state election results might be very effectively affected. Now, imagine that state-wide . . . just a few thousand folks bringing one other friend or family member or even just an acquaintance to go vote. Why, family outings of this nature could lift our current mucky political morass right out of the sleazy mud and re-create the America in which many of us believe . . . the land of the free, home to the brave . . . government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Hope to see many of you at the voting booths . . . along with friends and family . . . .

Lori Wallace

Bravo, Mr. Kennard! Great commentary. You should put it in an op-ed for your local paper.

Sincerely.

Keith Stegath

Gerrymandering is a violation of Florida's constitution. Those involved need to be arrested and changed with breaking their oath of office. If found guilty by a jury of our peers, they should go to jail.

Keith Stegath - Candidate for Governor
www.fla-gov.org

LMW

Keith Stegath

25 of 27 were upheld.

One which was not upheld was the district of Democrat Corrine Brown.

Two Republicans lost their seats after the redistricting.

"Gerrymandering" is too strong a word and used purely to cause voters to distrust the party in power.

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