Groups ask judge to reject new map for Congress

Published On: Aug 18 2014 04:06:08 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 18 2014 04:06:19 PM EDT

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 remained "brazenly partisan" and would not fix the problems that prompted a judge to declare it unconstitutional.

The groups, which include the League of Women Voters of Florida, called on Judge Terry Lewis to reject the new map that 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 that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party, a practice known as gerrymandering. 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 ruled that two districts were invalid. The two districts flagged by Lewis were a sprawling district that stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando and is 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's ruling, state legislators held a hastily-arranged special session where they adopted a new map. Republican leaders insist they followed Lewis's ruling.

The coalition groups said the changes were minimal and contend 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. The federal Voting Rights Act bars 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. Detzner's court filing said holding a special election next year for Congress would likely violate federal law.


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