The court ruling that invalidated Florida’s congressional districts this week will give voters in November’s elections something they are used to: uncertainty. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis rejected the Legislature’s 2012 congressional map and specifically ordered two of the state’s 27 districts redrawn to comply with the state’s Fair Districts constitutional amendment. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, should see her sprawling district become more compact and follow traditional political boundaries, Lewis ruled. And U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, should have his Orlando-based district revamped to eliminate the partisan advantage that came when lawmakers swapped out Hispanic Democrats for white Republicans. Among the harsh criticism Lewis directed at the Republican-controlled Legislature was that they allowed “improper partisan intent” to infiltrate the redistricting process and seemingly ignored evidence that partisan political operatives were “making a mockery” out of their attempts to conduct themselves with transparency.
Lewis also retained jurisdiction over the case, meaning any remedy will have to be approved by him. How and when that happens is not clear and Lewis did not give any guidance.
Republicans uniformly said Friday that they are reviewing the ruling and won’t comment. Privately, some suggest that the remedy is simple — the Legislature need only adopt a previous version of the congressional map and be done.
But lawyers for the coalition led by the League of Women Voters that brought the legal challenge disagree.
Lewis ruled that Brown’s entire district was non-compliant, said David King, lead lawyer for the plaintiff, and that requires the district be completely revised, and all adjacent districts as well.