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Supervisors: special election is possible this year for revised congressional districts

Coalition proposed remedial mapElections officials in the counties facing redrawn congressional districts concluded on Tuesday that, contrary to arguments of Republican legislators, the state could conduct special elections for a handful of districts this year – but winners would not be chosen until after Nov. 4.

By postponing the primary and general elections for as many as 10 congressional seats in North and Central Florida, Florida could again become the last state in the nation to announce its elections results. But, officials said, it may be the only option to avoid electing candidates to Congress from unconstitutional districts.

“We decided we can do a special primary post the November election – there is a window of opportunity – but we need to decide what are those dates,’’ said Jerry Holland, supervisor of elections for Duval County and head of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections.

Elections for all other congressional districts that are unchanged by the map -- and all other races on the ballot -- will continue as planned under the current election schedule.


Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled last month that two of Florida’s 27 congressional districts were violating the Fair Districts provisions of the state constitution, invalidating districts held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. He ordered the Legislature to redraw the boundaries by Aug. 15 and said he is considering calling special elections for any districts affected by the new map for after Nov. 4.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz scheduled an eight-day special session starting Thursday to redraw the maps but argued that requiring the new districts to take effect this year will be disruptive to voters and unfair to minorities.

At a court hearing last month, the Republican leaders urged Lewis to have the new districts take effect for the 2016 election, and they offered to redraw the districts after the general election this year.

But Lewis rejected that argument and gave the secretary of state until Aug. 15 to come up with a special election schedule. He set a court hearing for Aug. 20 to hear arguments before he makes a final decision.

In a conference call on Tuesday, the supervisors of elections for Orange, Marion, St. John’s, Clay and Duval counties -- the areas that will be most affected by the changes to Brown and Webster’s districts -- discussed the options for conducting special elections this year.

They ruled out the option of conducting special elections before the Nov. 4 general election, Holland told the Herald/Times. Another suggestion, to use the general election as the primary, was also ruled out because it would “create massive voter confusion,” he said.

Orange County Supervisor Bill Cowles said there are many outstanding questions that elections officials can’t answer, particularly what will happen if either the voting groups that brought the lawsuit or the GOP-led Legislature appeal Lewis’ final ruling.

“The first question is: how long will it take to get judicially-approved districts?,’’ he said. “Will somebody appeal or challenge the districts the Legislature approves? We can’t do anything until we get final districts.”

Once the districts are set, elections officials need time revise their precinct maps and notify voters, a process that will take three to four weeks, Holland said. After that, candidates will need time to qualify for the new districts before the primary.

Lewis said in his order that 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.

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

Holland emphasized that most counties south and west of Orlando will not be affected by the changes “but it may impact as many as 10 to 15,’’ he said.

Elections officials will conduct a conference call with all 67 supervisors of elections on Thursday, Holland said, to get additional feedback.

Meanwhile, the heads of the House and Senate redistricting committees on Tuesday signaled they expect a quick fix to the map and expect the session to be adjourned on Monday or Tuesday.

Sen. Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton Republican, and Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, also ordered their staff to refrain from any conversation about the maps with congressmen, outside groups or anyone other than the legislature's legal counsel. 

The warnings from came after Lewis rebuked legislators in his ruling for allowing Republican political consultants to hijack the redistricting process in 2012 and create a shadow process that "made a mockery" of legislators’ claims of transparency.

Galvano said in an email to members that they may not “share their work product with any outside interests” and Corcoran said that any legislator who wanted to offer his own redistricting plan must be “prepared to explain in committee or on the House floor the identity of every person involved in drawing, reviewing, directing, or approving the proposal.”

Comments

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Hmmmm....

What a biased story and headline... Leading readers to believe that the elections could be held, even after the November 4 election...

But then goes on down in the story that even the same supervisors who said they could do it, are uncertain because of potential lawsuits, etc...

End of story is that there is too much unknown to be able to schedule the election at this time, and the window to set the dates is quickly closing.

Christopher M. Kennard

Frankly, I am one Independent Voter who thoroughly approves the handling and decisions made regarding this case by Judge Lewis.

What really rankles both Florida citizens and the Judge who dug deep to unveil the extent of the illegal actions of the Republican Party is that this very kind of corrupt polluting of our elections was the reason why Florida citizens bypassed the political parties and approved a citizen initiative ballot vote during the 2010 election.

Florida citizens, themselves, went to a lot of trouble to put this new law into our State Constitution as the "Fair Districts" Act. What an affront to voters!

I further am very appreciative that our Supervisors of Elections seem to be stepping up to the plate. They seem to want to ensure these elections are as fair and honest as can be regarding district maps being redrawn. The amount of time and trouble this is going to cause all the impacted election offices is significant by setting back the date of certain congressional district elections. It demonstrates their support of Florida voters who want honest and fair elections.

All I can really do regarding the Republican Party's corruption of our political process in these elections this year is to vote against every incumbent running for reelection in Ocala and Marion County, Florida.

Two years from now, on November 4th 2016, I will repeat and complete the process of throwing the rest of this “tainted” pack of politician out of office.

By then, I hope we have honest people who can think for themselves and better represent the citizens of Florida running for office on the local, state and federal levels of government.

However, I did change my voter registration from being an Independent Voter to Democrat, so I can do something regarding the Democrats primary elections.

I do not really care about political parties nearly as much as I care about the personal integrity and political beliefs of individual candidates in office.

I respect candidates who can think for themselves, cannot be bought, sold or traded and understand the sacred trust that we, the voters, place in our elected representatives.

The failure of the Florida Democratic Party not to insist upon primary debates between primary election candidates running for Governor causes more damage and has far greater impact to our election process than any single individual candidate’s refusal to engage in debate.

It is as if someone with great monetary resources told the Florida Democratic Party who the party will support this year for Governor. Democratic voters were thrust entirely aside with little say in the matter, their votes taken for granted.

The "Crist" campaign, which seems to be running the Florida Democratic Party, says to Democratic voters, "trust us," we know better." In effect, they are saying that it is better to vote for "our" crook rather than allowing the other crook, Rick Scott, a second term in office as Governor.

Democratic operatives tell the voters that Crist is our creature who will do as told, same as he did all the years he has been in office as a conservative Republican. Crist's campaign script to follow is, "I've seen the light . . . I am completely changed . . . I should have always been a Democrat, all along."

The Democratic Party may come to realize that it is aiding and abetting negative repercussions of great potential harm to haunt all voters. It is destroying the party.

Not to sponsor primary debates for Governor means that Democratic voters do not have an open and valid means to compare the candidates. These are candidates who are competing to win individual party member's personal support and their vote. Many Democrats are pausing, wondering what the cost of this political "fix" may materialize to be in the future, if Crist wins.

And, perhaps, both political parties pose a challenge to us all this year that must be addressed.

It appears to this voter that both major political parties, Democrats and Republicans, are corrupting the whole political process in Florida. I believe this negatively affects everyone residing in Florida - Democrats, Republican, Independents, Libertarians and all others who live in Florida.

Both political parties, Democrat and Republican, have gone to the money rather than permit Florida voters themselves to pick and choose their candidates in open and honest primaries.

The general election itself is facing further harm. Judge Lewis is trying, but he may not be able to delay the elections so new district maps can be created and approved. It does seem as if an court appeal might complicate matters, so voters would have to respond.

What can voters do?

As stated previously, I cannot do much regarding the Republican Party and the corruption they have caused to our political process, other than to vote in the general elections on November 4th, 2014. I will vote to throw out everyone now who is in office running for reelection, and to elect the best new candidates for whom I can vote.

I can do something right now about the Democratic Party. I switched my voter registration from being an Independent Voter to be a Democrat so I can vote in the Democratic primary election on August 26th. I will vote for the more open and honest candidate running for Governor, Nan Rich.

To those who promote the expediency of following the money and the popularity polls in rationalizing a vote for Charlie Crist, I understand your reasoning.

Yet, I believe when someone who seems relatively honest and has a history of being a good legislator is running against "machine politicians" . . . I will go with the honest candidate . . . in this case, Nan Rich.

Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party need to get the message . . . the full message . . . . Only honest people who are intelligent, with personal integrity and the compelling desire to represent all people within their district, state and country, the USA need apply for elective or appointive public office. All corrupt folks, stay away, we don’t want you!

Hope to see lots of folks at the voting polls this year. Bring a friend or a family member or someone else you know who may not otherwise vote this year to go vote with you. “Double” your personal impact upon these elections! Think of the difference if more people brought even one more person each to vote this year . . . what a message we would send . . . .

Hmmmm....

Christopher - your statement describing the judge as "the Judge who dug deep to..." is pretty scary...

palmettoexile

@ Christopher Kennard-I completely agree with you on all points, except one. I truly think that Nan Rich is the best candidate -however, as you stated, the closed primaries stifle more than half the registered voters in the State. I wish she or Wylie had a better chance of winning the election, but I also recognize that those who DO vote for either are probably giving this election to Scott. The Repub Party-both in Fl. and national-have given a ton of $$ to Scott. I doubt that either Rich or Wylie would be able to overcome that.
As other Democrats-I too switched from Independent-I will cast my vote for Crist, although I think it's choosing the lesser of two evils. This State and its people cannot survive another term with Scott; the only ones who will do well are the wealthy and the "almost-wealthy". Certainly the average citizen will see any increase in their standard of living.
This recent scandal involving of the top "leaders" -Gaetz, Weatherford, and others- in the Repub legislature is indicative of the manner they work; they obviously feel no remorse for being caught at their map-drawing scheme-they now wish for the people to vote in districts already judged as illegally drawn in a deliberate effort to deceive the citizens, protect Republican incumbents, and in direct and purposeful violation of the Fair Districting laws that the voters in Florida approved. These Legislators went to great lengths to hide the methods and those firms used in the process. Back room politics doesn't come close to an apt description to the machinations that Gaetz and Weatherford employed.
We cannot continue to have these types of criminals in the Legislature. Every voter in this State-whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent, should be outraged at the flaunting of the law.
And Christopher, you are certainly correct in your suggestion that every voter bring at least one other, who may have no way to get to a polling place, would and could make a huge difference in the outcomes of elections. with the voter suppression laws Scott initiated, far too many will be disenfranchised-unless those of us who CAN-actually DO.

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