Thursday, January 18, 2018
Politics

Groups ask judge to reject new map for Congress

TALLAHASSEE — The same groups that successfully challenged Florida's congressional map are now asking a judge to throw out a new one drawn up by the Legislature.

In a sharply worded motion Monday, the coalition that sued legislators asserted the map adopted last week is still "brazenly partisan" and would not fix the problems that prompted a judge to declare the old one unconstitutional.

The groups, which include the League of Women Voters of Florida, called on Judge Terry Lewis to reject the new map, which alters seven of Florida's congressional districts and shifts nearly 400,000 voters. Lewis is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday.

"Despite being given the opportunity to right the wrong they committed and to honor the clear mandate of Florida's voters, legislative defendants have squandered that opportunity," the motion said.

Voters in 2010 passed the "Fair Districts" amendment, which says legislators cannot draw districts to favor incumbents or a political party. The groups that sued contended GOP consultants used a "shadow" process in 2012 to draw districts that benefited Republicans and violated the new standards.

Lewis agreed there was enough evidence to show that consultants helped manipulate the process, and he ruled that two districts were invalid. The two districts flagged by Lewis were a sprawling district stretching from Jacksonville to Orlando and held by U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown, a Democrat, and a central Florida district held by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Republican.

Instead of appealing Lewis' ruling, state legislators held a hastily arranged special session during which they adopted a new map. GOP leaders insist they followed Lewis' ruling.

The coalition groups say the changes were minimal and contend that Brown's district retains its sprawling shape and still has Democrats packed into it to help out adjoining GOP districts. The groups said Brown's district should be redrawn to reach across north Florida. Legislative attorneys said that would run afoul of federal voting laws, which bar states from diluting the voting strength of minorities.

If Lewis accepts the new map, he must also consider when to implement it. The groups maintain there is still time to implement it this year.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Friday filed a proposed special election schedule that calls for holding a primary election next March and a general election in May for newly revised congressional districts.

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