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Weatherford announces session but warns of disrupting election with new districts

In an email to House members and staff late Sunday, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, acknowledged that he and Senate President Don Gaetz have called members into session starting Thursday, Aug. 7 "for the sole and exclusive purpose of reapportioning Florida's Congressional Districts" but he warned of the problems of applying the changes to this year's elections. 

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Friday ordered lawmakers to revise their congressional redistricting map to fix two districts he had previously ordered unconstitutional — those held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden.

Lewis gave the Legislature until Aug. 15 to fix the map and said he was considering calling a special election after the Nov. 4 general election for the affected districts. He called for an Aug. 20 hearing to allow lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case, a group of voting organizations, and the defendants, the GOP-led Legislature, to present their arguments on what the court should decide.

"We continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process. Florida’s Supervisors of Elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date,'' Weatherford wrote.

"The NAACP also pointed out in their response to Judge Lewis that, “In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist. Voters who face challenges to political participation – be it financial, job scheduling, transportation, or other impediments – will be irreparably harmed by conducting the election at a time where that infrastructure does not exist.”

Here's Weatherford's email: 

From: Will.Weatherford@myfloridahouse.gov
Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2014 9:07 PM
To: Will.Weatherford@myfloridahouse.gov
Subject: Special Session - Redistricting
 

Dear Members:

In response to the rulings issued by Judge Lewis on July 10, 2014 and August 1, 2014, the Florida Legislature has decided to produce a Congressional map to address the Court’s limited concerns.  Accordingly, the House and Senate have agreed to call ourselves into special session on Thursday, August 7 for the sole and exclusive purpose of reapportioning Florida’s Congressional Districts.

We continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process. Florida’s Supervisors of Elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date. The NAACP also pointed out in their response to Judge Lewis that, “In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist. Voters who face challenges to political participation – be it financial, job scheduling, transportation, or other impediments – will be irreparably harmed by conducting the election at a time where that infrastructure does not exist.”

Tens of thousands of our service men and women overseas have received their ballots, and over one million absentee ballots have been mailed to Floridians. Members, we intend to vigorously defend the integrity and validity of Floridians’ votes that have already been and will be cast in the upcoming election.

I understand that calling a special session at this late date will require you to rearrange your schedules. I have directed staff to provide you with detailed information tomorrow to assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

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