Elections officials in the counties facing redrawn congressional districts concluded on Tuesday that, contrary to arguments of Republican legislators, the state could conduct special elections for a handful of districts this year – but winners would not be chosen until after Nov. 4. By postponing the primary and general elections for as many as 10 congressional seats in North and Central Florida, Florida could again become the last state in the nation to announce its elections results. But, officials said, it may be the only option to avoid electing candidates to Congress from unconstitutional districts. “We decided we can do a special primary post the November election – there is a window of opportunity – but we need to decide what are those dates,’’ said Jerry Holland, supervisor of elections for Duval County and head of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections. Elections for all other congressional districts that are unchanged by the map — and all other races on the ballot — will continue as planned under the current election schedule.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled last month that two of Florida’s 27 congressional districts were violating the Fair Districts provisions of the state constitution, invalidating districts held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. He ordered the Legislature to redraw the boundaries by Aug. 15 and said he is considering calling special elections for any districts affected by the new map for after Nov. 4.
House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz scheduled an eight-day special session starting Thursday to redraw the maps but argued that requiring the new districts to take effect this year will be disruptive to voters and unfair to minorities.
At a court hearing last month, the Republican leaders urged Lewis to have the new districts take effect for the 2016 election, and they offered to redraw the districts after the general election this year.