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Florida Judge Skeptical About Fixing Map Now

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Update: Associated Press
July 24, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida judge says he's "extremely skeptical" about changing the state's congressional districts before the 2014 elections.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis held a three-hour hearing Thursday to consider what to do after he ruled that current districts are illegal because they were drawn to benefit the Republican Party.

Lewis said he will try to have a final ruling by the end of next week. But he signaled he is unlikely to go along with the groups that sued the Florida Legislature.

The coalition suing the Legislature wants the districts changed now. They argued Lewis has the authority to postpone the Aug. 26 primary so that the changes can be made.

But attorneys for the Florida Legislature dispute that. State officials said it would create problems to move election dates.


Update: Associated Press
July 24, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida judge is being asked to decide when the state's congressional districts will be redrawn.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is holding a hearing Thursday to consider what steps to take since ruling that current districts are illegal because they were drawn to benefit the Republican Party.

Legislative leaders say they will redraw the districts, but they want to wait until after the 2014 elections.

A coalition of groups that sued the Florida Legislature wants the districts fixed now. They have asked Lewis to approve a new congressional map. The group also is suggesting postponing the Aug. 26 primary date so that the changes can be made.

Voters in 2010 passed the "Fair Districts" amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party.


Update: Associated Press
July 17, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Lawyers for the Florida Legislature and the state's election supervisors are asking a judge to delay any changes to the state's congressional districts until after the November elections.

Judge Terry Lewis held a hearing Thursday to consider what steps to take now that he has ruled that the current map is unconstitutional. Republican legislative leaders announced this week that they do not plan to appeal the ruling.

Lewis conceded that he had not considered the potential impact on the 2014 elections because he had assumed that someone would appeal his landmark ruling.

David King, an attorney representing the groups that sued the Legislature, argued to Lewis there is still time to redraw the state's congressional districts this year.

Lewis agreed to hold another hearing to discuss the case next week.


Update: Andy Alcock
July 15, 2014

A ruling calling two of Florida's congressional district maps unconstitutional will go unchallenged.

State Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford say they will not appeal a Leon County judge's ruling in the case.

Gaetz sent a letter to all the senators about the case, including Senator Bill Montford.

In the letter, Gaetz points out while Judge Terry Lewis ordered two district maps redrawn, the judge rejected challenges to 8 other districts.

As a result, 25 of Florida's 27 congressional district maps lawmakers drew in 2012 are currently not at issue.

Gaetz says lawmakers will re-draw maps for district 5 in the Jacksonville area and district 10 in central Florida.

However, Gaetz points out absentee ballots to active military members have already been mailed for the 2014 election based on the current maps.

Instead of changing them now, Gaetz wants to re-draw the two maps in time for the 2016 election.

"Well I certainly agree with that," Montford said. "The president and the speaker of the house have made a wise suggestion and that is ask the judge for clarification because we're well into the 2014 election already," he said.

Montford also says because Gaetz and Weatherford don't plan to appeal the ruling, it makes sense to make the new re-drawn maps effective for the 2016 election.

Gaetz in his letter to his fellow senators says he'll provide addtional updates as the process of seeking clarification from Judge Lewis on the ruling moves forward.


Update:Associated Press
July 15, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Republican leaders of Florida's Legislature say they will not appeal a ruling that found the state's map for congressional districts unconstitutional.

But Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford said in a statement Tuesday that they want to postpone drawing a new map until after the 2014 elections.

A circuit judge ruled last week that the Legislature illegally drew Florida's congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party. Judge Terry Lewis ruled that two of the state's 27 congressional districts were invalid and that the map must be redrawn.

The first affected district runs from Jacksonville to Orlando. U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown, a Democrat, holds the seat. The second is a central Florida district. The seat is held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Republican.


Update: Associated Press
July 14, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A coalition of groups challenging Florida's map for Congress wants a judge to act quickly now that the map has been declared unconstitutional.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled last week that the state Legislature illegally drew Florida's congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party.

But Lewis did not specify who should redraw the map or when it should be redrawn.

Lawyers for the groups, which include the League of Women Voters, filed a motion on Monday asking Lewis to hold a hearing to figure out what should happen next. The groups argue that with the 2014 elections looming, "time is of the essence for drawing a remedial congressional plan."

The Florida Legislature, meanwhile, has not announced whether it plans to appeal the ruling.


News Release: Associated Press
July 10, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A state judge says Florida's Legislature illegally drew the state's congressional districts and has ordered them redrawn.

Judge Terry Lewis on Thursday found that the state's Republican-controlled Legislature broke the law when it drew up political maps in 2012. He rejected arguments from top legislative leaders that they had done nothing wrong.

Lewis' ruling, however, is not expected to disrupt this year's elections because the Legislature is expected to appeal the decision.

A 12-day trial marked the first test of a 2010 constitutional amendment approved overwhelmingly by voters that said legislators could no longer draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party.

A coalition of groups contended that legislators used a "shadow" process to conceal the role of GOP consultants who helped craft the final maps.


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