Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is skeptical he can redraw the boundaries of the state’s congressional districts in time for the primary and general elections this year. He has good reason for skepticism. Military ballots have already been mailed overseas, and local supervisors of elections are mailing ballots to voters in their counties and preparing early-voting sites in advance of the Aug. 26 primary election. To put the brakes on that process and disrupt or delay the primary and general elections would be foolish. Although the legality of the district boundaries is clearly in question, it’s simply too late to pull back now. He should allow the elections to proceed with the existing maps. If he does, we hope the parties that successfully challenged the maps will consider the chaos an immediate appeal will cause and accept that it’s too late. Holding the elections as scheduled will also allow time to redraw the lines, and to determine whether Lewis, the Legislature, an appointed third party, or the state’s highest court have that authority. After they are redrawn, perhaps special elections can be held in the affected districts.
This unpleasant predicament can be laid at the feet of Republican lawmakers who participated in a stealth effort to rig the district maps to their advantage, a process known as gerrymandering. A lawsuit by the League of Women Voters and other voter-rights groups pulled the curtain back on the whole sordid affair.
After listening to testimony, Lewis ordered new boundaries for two congressional districts: one occupied by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown that stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando, and one occupied by Republican U.S. Rep Dan Webster in Central Florida.