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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Legislators to redraw, not challenge, congressional map to appease court

15

July

Florida legislative leaders have ended their silence on the rejected congressional map and announced Tuesday they will not appeal the circuit court ruling but agree to redraw the map deemed unconstitutional because of two invalid districts, as long as they can wait until next year.

The voters groups, led by the League of Women Voters, contend that Florida must not run the next elections on a constitutionally-flawed map. They asked Judge Terry Lewis for an expedited hearing to decide how to make the fix and Lewis has scheduled a status conference for Thursday morning.  Download Notice Of Case Management Conference

The legislative leaders, however, whose legal challenge involved months of delay over discovery documents related to GOP political consultants, say the new map should wait. They are asking the court to clarify that the ruling does not apply this year.  Download Legislature's motion re final judgment 

Notably, the Legislature waited until after the overseas absentee ballots were sent on Saturday to announce its decision.

"Any attempt to change the districts at this late stage of the 2014 elections process would cause chaos and confusion and would threaten the rights of our deployed military voters,'' wrote Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, in a statement. 

"It has been the practice in other states and in Florida to remedy maps at a future election so as not to disrupt and disenfranchise voters. We believe such action is appropriate and is in the best interest of Florida, and particularly our deployed military servicemen and servicewomen, who are casting their votes now.”

What happens next is still unknown. The two districts directly affected are held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. Surrounding districts, especially that held by U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Seminole, are also likely to be modified slightly.

Will the court allow for another round of qualifying and therefore another round of ballots in November for the election? Will a remedy be approved in time for this year's elections, or have to wait another two years?

Here's the statement:

Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) today issued the following joint statement regarding the recent court decision issued by Judge Terry Lewis onthe Florida Congressional map.

“We respect the deliberative and thorough manner in which Judge Lewis approached the trial on the Florida Congressional map.

“While the court directed that Congressional Districts 5 and 10 be redrawn, the court rejected the Plaintiffs’ challenge to eight other districts, thereby upholding 25 of 27 congressional districts statewide and leaving intact the vast majority of the actions taken by the Legislature.

“The Legislature does not presently intend to initiate an appeal of the Court's decision and will redraw the boundaries of Congressional Districts 5 and 10.  

“Today, we have asked Judge Lewis to clarify, as a legal and practical matter, that his decision does not affect the administration of the 2014 election.

"According to federal law, over 63,000 Florida military and overseas voters are already casting absentee ballots based on the current Congressional map. Next week, hundreds of thousands of printed absentee ballots will be mailed to in-state voters.

"Any attempt to change the districts at this late stage of the 2014 elections process would cause chaos and confusion and would threaten the rights of our deployed military voters. It has been the practice in other states and in Florida to remedy maps at a future election so as not to disrupt and disenfranchise voters. We believe such action is appropriate and is in the best interest of Florida, and particularly our deployed military servicemen and servicewomen, who are casting their votes now.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 3:25pm]

    

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