Judge reviews congressional maps in Florida gerrymandering case

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 20, 2014 12:30 PM

By Bill Cotterell

TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida judge held a hearing on Wednesday to review new congressional maps drawn by the legislature in a lawsuit over gerrymandering by Republican legislative leaders, raising the possibility of election delays in affected races.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is considering whether to delay the November midterm elections in the affected congressional districts after earlier ruling conservatives had improperly redrawn the state's districts.

Under court orders, the Republican-controlled legislature approved minor changes to seven of Florida's 27 congressional districts last week in a hastily convened special session.

Lewis ruled last month that Republican legislative leaders "made a mockery" of anti-gerrymandering provisions in the state's constitution with their 2012 redistricting plan.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have asked Lewis to reject the legislature's revised map. A coalition led by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause is seeking a special election this year, arguing that voters should not have to elect representatives from unconstitutional districts.

Florida's Republican secretary of state, Ken Detzner, has said March 2015 is the soonest a special primary election could be held, followed by a general election in May.

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Republican legislative leaders have said they oppose delays to the fall elections.

Early voting is already under way in Florida's Aug. 26 primaries.

Lewis said on Wednesday he would try to make a decision quickly. It is unclear what his ruling could mean for the scheduled primary elections in the affected districts.

(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by David Adams and Susan Heavey)