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Are legislators headed for stand-off with judge and more litigation?

Coalition proposed remedial mapFlorida legislators indicated Monday that they will meet in special session this week to make the court-ordered repairs to two congressional districts in North and Central Florida but they will not accept holding special elections this year to put them in place.

In a joint email to legislators, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz said they “continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process.’’ But they also laid out the schedule for the special session they are convening on Thursday in response to an Aug. 15 deadline imposed on them by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis.

Lewis ordered lawmakers to revise their congressional redistricting map to fix two districts he had previously ruled unconstitutional, those held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. He wants the Legislature to fix the map to make Brown’s snake-shaped district more compact and to remove an appendage in Webster’s Central Florida-based district intended to give Republicans an advantage.

He also said he was considering calling a special election after Nov. 4 for candidates in the districts with new boundaries. Voting would proceed normally for all the other races on the ballot.

But legislators want the new districts to take effect in 2016 and said that if Lewis attempts to hold a special election to implement the new boundaries this year, they will oppose it — potentially challenging his decision in state or federal court.

"Florida’s Supervisors of Elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date,’’ wrote Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel and Gaetz, R-Niceville. “The NAACP also pointed out in their motion to Judge Lewis that, ‘In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist.’"

Under most scenarios, any changes to Brown and Webster’s districts could force changes in surrounding districts held by incumbent U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw, Ted Yoho, Ron DeSantis, John Mica and Bill Posey, all Republicans.

Under a map proposed by the Democrat-leaning voting groups that filed the lawsuit, Brown’s district — which now snakes through North Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando, packing in Democrats and black voters — would be revised to be primarily a Jacksonville-based seat but cut across the top edge of the state into Tallahassee. Story here.

Map: Coalition plaintiffs proposed remedial map, exhibit 2 

If incumbents are forced to run in regions they haven’t represented before, they lose all the advantage of incumbency, said Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida and a redistricting expert.

"All they can do is spend campaign dollars, they can’t endear themselves to constituents,’’ he said.

Lewis set an Aug. 20 hearing to hear arguments on a potential special election and asked the state’s secretary of state to propose a draft special elections schedule. He said the new maps will be effective by Aug. 21.

But Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, on Monday told WBOB in Jacksonville, a conservative talk radio show, that Republican leaders want the changes to take effect in the 2016 elections because it is logistically impossible to do it this year.

He said legislators will convene in session Thursday, correct the map "pretty easily" and be prepared to vote on a final plan by Monday.

"Then the judge has got to make a decision,’’ Thrasher said. "Does he allow these new districts to go into effect for the 2016 election … or is he going to try rearrange the deck chairs” this year?

Because overseas ballots have already be sent and returned by military voters, and early voting starts for the Aug. 26 primary, Thrasher predicted: "I think this guy’s got a real mess on his hands if he tries to rearrange these couple of congressional districts."

McDonald said the stand-off is likely to produce more litigation. He also noted that federal law sets the date for congressional elections "and a state court does not have the authority to alter the election in this way.

"There’s potential legal consequences,’’ he said. "I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw litigation in federal court."

Meanwhile, the special session is expected to cost taxpayers about $68,245 per day. It will also cost legislators: House and Senate rules force them to refrain from fund-raising while they are in session.

Rep. Perry Thurston, the House Democratic leader from Plantation, said he expects Republican leaders will blame the court for imposing the added costs but, he said, that argument doesn’t work for his members.

"Let’s all remember, the reason we’re here is because the leadership who’s in charge of this process did not abide by the rules of the Fair Districts process,’’ he said.

 

Comments

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Can't take anymore

If Weatherford and Gaetz hold firm in their threat to ignore the judge's order I hope he dispatches a couple of Leon Co. deputies to their offices to handcuff them and haul them before him for contempt of court. I think these two clowns would look real natural in orange jumpsuits. Orange looks so good on a sociopath.

Christopher M. Kennard

Florida voters, no matter what political party or ideology to which you identify . . . if you are honest and reasonably intelligent; willing to treat everyone evenhandedly and work cooperatively with other, we can elect that kind of elected official to represent us on the local, state and federal level of government.

Most of us agree that the majority of politicians who are now running for reelection are not worth keeping in public office.

So we should "fire" the whole corrupt crowd of them and elect new people to public office who will better represent all of us, not just their big money campaign contributors or cronies in business.

"Double" your personal impact upon these elections and bring someone who may not have otherwise voted to go vote with you. Think of the consequences if hundred or thousands of folks brought just one other person to go vote with them . . . .

ed jenkins

The citizens have had enough of these articles and the financial resources wasted on these mundane administrative government procedures that they have no interest in. They want these matters dropped once in for all which have done nothing but entertain a small group of cartographers and a group that claims to represent one entire sex of voters but has wasted massive amounts of taxpayer confiscated funds, tied up the courts and now cast uncertainty on upcoming elections.

Ray Hudkins

Canada conducts its elections over a four week period, including campaigning for office. Great Britain does it in six weeks, give or take. I believe Australia does it in a similar time frame. If we are so exceptional, how is it that from mid-August to Nov 4 we can't hold elections. If we had Top Two Open Primaries like California and Washington State it would even be better. How many attack ads to we have to endure to choose a candidate to represent us? Holding an election after Nov 4 isn't the end of the world. Violating the state constitution is not something we should condone.

Fred Jenkins

The citizens have had enough of these articles and the financial resources wasted on these mundane administrative government procedures that they have no interest in since the representative form of government is so passé anyhow. They want these matters dropped once in for all which have done nothing but entertain a small group of cartographers and a group that claims to represent one entire sex of voters but has wasted massive amounts of taxpayer confiscated funds, tied up the courts and now cast uncertainty on upcoming elections. Rather, the benevolent corporate overlords with the incumbent political structure firmly in their pockets will provide the best for all citizens as long as it makes a tidy profit.

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2014/08/are-legislators-headed-for-stand-off-with-judge-and-more-litigation.html#storylink=cpy

Lynn Miller

Judge Lewis ruled that it unconstituional and I want it corrected, NOW

palmettoexile

As Rep. Thurston commented,

"Let’s all remember, the reason we’re here is because the leadership who’s in charge of this process did not abide by the rules of the Fair Districts process,’’ he said.
That just about says everything that needs to be said. The Fl. Repubs committed an illegal act in the redistricting process, and now that they've been called on it, they want the citizens to vote in their illegally-drawn maps?? They act as though THEY were wrongfully accused !! The fact that incumbents won't be able to access funding plays a large part-if not THE part-in this scandal. Not to mention protecting the Repub majority. The only way they can manage THAT is by illegal and nefarious means-which is exactly what they have done. How DARE they??
Gaetz and Weatherford act like they are above the law. I hope they DO attempt to hold elections in the counties as drawn; I hope this appeal DOES make it to the federal courts. If so, I can't imagine other judges (if they cannot be bought) will rule as did judge Lewis. Bad PR, that.
Lynn Miller speaks for the "citizens of the family-friendly State of Florida" when she stated ,"The judge ruled that it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL and I want it fixed ,NOW." I concur-this needs to be fixed now-NOT later. Every Legislator who had a finger on the maps should be summarily fired-NOW.
Their actions have made FloriDUH a national example of corruption; last night, CNN and other national media outlets-print and TV-reported the gerrymandering of districts and read the crucial "conspiring to deceive..." portion of Judge Lewis' decision on air.
I find the fact that my hometown newspaper, in the Fl. Panhandle ,which is home to Senate President Gaetz, reported on the "doings in Tallahassee" but failed to name and/or castigate- by name-any Legislators involved-namely, Gaetz. The hometown altar boy can do no wrong. I certainly cannot call the mullet wrapper a great source of news-other than the stories of local traffic accidents and blurbs clipped from the AP about the "events" in other parts of the State, but I would expect at least a bit of coverage of this scandal AND those involved in the deception/back-door deals.
The entire process, as the Judge stated, was a deliberate effort to circumvent the law and the legislators involved "conspired to..". This (redistricting) is yet another disgraceful example of the political stranglehold that Republicans in the Legislature wield in this State. Gerrymandering, loopholes and suppression of voting privileges are merely the tip of the Republican iceberg that allows them to gain and maintain control.
Transparency ? Ethics ? The "representatives" of the people of Florida don't know, follow, or care about the definitions of these words. In their view,they are immune to and innocent of charges of any kind.

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