TALLAHASSEE -- Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled Friday that the Florida Legislature must immediately revise its congressional map and gave it until Aug. 15 to submit a revised map.
Lawyers for the Legislature had argued that fixing the map before the November elections would “cause horrific uncertainty” for voters and would be an extreme, unnecessary remedy. He ordered a hearing for Aug. 20 to review the proposals.
Lewis ruled last month that the state’s congressional redistricting maps are invalid and declared two of the states’s 27 districts unconstitutional — those held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden.
But the Legislature decided not to appeal the ruling. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz then urged Lewis to let them revise the map after the November elections to avoid disrupting the fall elections and to comply with federal voting rules that impose a fixed schedule for sending ballots to overseas voters in the military.
The coalition of voters groups, led by the League of Women Voters, filed the lawsuit challenging the state’s congressional map as violating the Fair Districts rules approved by voters in 2010.
After a 13-day trial, Lewis concluded that the Republican-controlled Legislature allowed “improper partisan intent” to infiltrate the redistricting process and seemingly ignored evidence that partisan political operatives were “making a mockery” out of their attempts to conduct themselves with transparency.
League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab issued the following statement in reaction to the ruling:
“This is a champagne moment for Florida voters, who have waited too long for fairly drawn congressional districts. Per his ruling, Judge Lewis has laid out a path that will allow all Florida voters, for the first time in decades, to elect their representatives in fair and constitutional districts.”