TALLAHASSEE — Florida's congressional districts won't change by November and new elections can't be held until next year, the state's top elections officials told a circuit court judge Friday.
Responding to a court order to have a proposal in place by noon Friday, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, in conjunction with the Florida secretary of state, concluded that the earliest date they could conduct a special election in the 25 counties affected by the new congressional districts would be in March 17, with a general election to follow May 26.
"We have submitted a timeline that we believe is swift, feasible, follows election laws and ensures voter enfranchisement while providing fair, accurate and transparent elections," said Jerry Holland, Duval County supervisor of elections and president of the association.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ordered the elections officials to present him with the plan when he ordered the Florida Legislature to redraw two districts — District 5, represented by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and District 10, represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden.
Holland said that Lewis had said "the cure should not be worse than the illness," and the elections officials have since been working to "explore elections scenarios from combining existing election schedules to creating a new accurate timeline that would allow for alternative congressional elections should the judge choose to make such an order,'' he said.
But the supervisors conceded there will be no quick remedies. They rejected claims by the coalition of voters groups who argued that a special election could be held this year — either simultaneously with the general election or after it, said Ron Labasky, general counsel of the association.
"We're not capable of doing that based upon the way the equipment works and the technology that's involved,'' he told the Times/Herald.
The supervisors must close out the Nov. 4 general elections and clear their computers, he said, making the earliest day they could begin plans for a special election Dec. 18.
The supervisors recommended that a primary for the disputed congressional district could be conducted 77 days after that — March 17 — and a general election could be held in May. They did not present any proposals on what the cost might be.
Lewis has scheduled a hearing Wednesday to hear arguments on the issue.
Florida lawmakers held a three-day special session that concluded Monday to revise the map. They tinkered with the boundaries, shifting 368,000 people and submitted the final version to the court Friday. If approved by the judge, the map changes the existing boundaries in 25 counties and seven of the state's 27 congressional districts where the special elections would have to be held.
Contact Mary Ellen Klas at [email protected] Follow @maryellenklas.