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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

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Plaintiffs file appeal to redistricting ruling


Published:

Florida’s midterm elections are no longer in danger of being changed, but the lengthy challenge to the state’s congressional districts is not over.

A coalition of plaintiffs that sued over the congressional maps is appealing a Leon Court judge’s ruling earlier this month that the Legislature’s second attempt at drawing those political lines was constitutional.

Within 10 days, the coalition will also file a request that their appeal be certified directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

It’s doing this to ensure “that their challenges can be fully litigated….in time for the 2016 elections,” read a notice filed Friday with the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled in July that the congressional maps drawn by the Legislature during the 2012 redistricting process were at odds with anti-gerrymandering provisions in the state constitution. Two of the state’s 27 seats were drawn to favor Republicans, he said.

Lewis green-lit the map after the Legislature convened a special session to redraw the two unconstitutional seats, which are held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Park. The new map made tweaks to seven total districts.

Though the plaintiffs still believe the redrawn congressional lines are invalid, they are no longer trying to change them prior to the 2014 elections in order to “assist the district court in administratively processing this appeal.”

Plaintiffs said the maps are still drawn to favor Republicans, pointing to, among other things, that the GOP would continue to hold a registration advantage in 17 districts.

In an Aug. 18 motion they asked Lewis to move election dates so that there was time to redraw maps.

“The citizens of Florida have already endured elections under gerrymandered districts after Legislature blatantly disregarded their will,” read a motion plaintiffs filed earlier this month.

Local election officials testified that upending the election calendar would be nearly impossible in 2014.

In a motion filed by attorneys for the Legislature, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Election said a special election in the affected districts could not happen until spring 2015.

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