After political operatives helped redraw the boundaries of Florida’s Fifth Congressional District, now held by Representative Corrine Brown, a Democrat, it snaked all the way from Jacksonville to Orlando, packing in more Democrats, but also benefiting Republicans in nearby districts. In a similar process in the 10th District, in the Orlando suburb of Winter Garden, an “appendage” was tacked on benefiting the incumbent, Representative Daniel Webster, a Republican. On Thursday night in a scathing decision, a state court judge tossed aside those district lines, saying they “made a mockery” of a voter-approved amendment meant to inject fairness into a process that has long been politically tainted. But Judge Terry P. Lewis’s blistering attack offered no remedy or timetable for fixing the boundaries. With Florida’s primary election only six weeks away, it is unclear whether voters will cast ballots on Aug. 26 and then on Nov. 4 based on a map that a judge has declared unconstitutional — or whether changes, if they withstand appeal, will be postponed until 2016.
What is clear is that Judge Lewis found that the districts’ boundaries wandered in indefensible ways, benefiting the Republican Party. This, he wrote, was a violation of two constitutional amendments approved by voters in 2010 and meant to stamp out a history of political shenanigans.
The 13-day trial in May and June, a result of a lawsuit brought more than two years ago by the League of Women Voters and other groups, revealed the inner workings of the redistricting process, as a parade of lawmakers, staff members, consultants and experts took the stand. It was a rarity, election experts said, because judges in other states typically grant lawmakers great deference, making it all but impossible to obtain details when the redistricting process is said to be unfairly molded by lawmakers.