Florida: Supervisors: special election is possible this year for revised congressional districts | Miami Herald

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.

Florida: Legislature convenes rushed redistricting special session | Orlando Sentinel

Lawmakers released a re-drawn congressional map Thursday which would shift the contours of seven U.S. House districts spread throughout Central Florida. On the first day of a court-ordered special session, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, showed how they plan to resolve the two improperly gerrymandered congressional districts held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden. The new map would shift the city of Sanford out of Brown’s seat, and remove an “appendage” of voters in Orange County out of Webster’s. It would drop the black voting-age population of Brown’s seat from 50 percent down to 48.1 percent, and shave some GOP voters from Webster’s seat. But it also changes the maps of five other congressional seats, within 23 counties. Lawmakers said they made those changes in order to solve overall compactness issues with their original plan. “It was not just the two appendages. We needed to address compactness as a whole,” said Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who added it improved the “serpentine-like” shape of Brown’s seat.

Florida: Lawmakers to Redraw Congressional Maps but on Their Own Terms | McClatchy

Florida legislators indicated Monday that they will meet in special session this week to make the court-ordered repairs to two congressional districts in North and Central Florida but they will not accept holding special elections this year to put them in place. In a joint email to legislators, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz said they “continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process.” But they also laid out the schedule for the special session they are convening on Thursday in response to an Aug. 15 deadline imposed on them by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis. Lewis ordered lawmakers to revise their congressional redistricting map to fix two districts he had previously ruled unconstitutional, those held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. He wants the Legislature to fix the map to make Brown’s snake-shaped district more compact and to remove an appendage in Webster’s Central Florida-based district intended to give Republicans an advantage.

Florida: Groups ask to move Florida election, draw new map | Miami Herald

A Florida judge is being asked to move this year’s election dates — including postponing next month’s primary — in order to draw up new congressional districts for the state. The request was filed Wednesday by a coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters, who successfully challenged Florida’s current congressional map. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled earlier this month that the state Legislature illegally drew the districts in 2012 to primarily benefit the Republican Party. Florida legislative leaders have said they will change the districts, but they want to wait until after the November elections to avoid disruption and problems at the polls. More than 1 million absentee ballots for the Aug. 26 primary went out this week.

Florida: Legislature agrees to redraw invalid congressional districts — for 2016 | Miami Herald

Florida legislative leaders ended their silence on their rejected congressional map Tuesday and announced they will not appeal a judge’s ruling, but will redraw the invalid map, as long as they can wait until after the 2014 election. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz asked Judge Terry Lewis to clarify his ruling about the timing of the revisions he is ordering when he ruled that two districts violate the Fair Districts standards of the state constitution, rendering the entire map invalid. Lewis scheduled a hearing on the case for Thursday. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Gaetz, R-Niceville, said Tuesday that revising the districts in the midst of a campaign season — after ballots have been printed and campaigns launched — would be impractical and disruptive. Elections officials sent overseas absentee ballots by Saturday, before lawmakers announced the decision not to challenge the maps.

Florida: State says it will change its congressional districts after judge said violate state law. But after the election.| The Washington Post

Florida lawmakers are asking for a few more years to fix their legislative boundaries after a judge said they violate the state’s redistricting guidelines. (The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan posted on it here.) Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled last week that two of Florida’s 2014 district boundaries need to be redrawn because a “secret, organized campaign” by political consultants influenced the process, according to the Miami Herald. The consultants “made a mockery of the Legislature’s transparent and open process of redistricting” and went to “great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it,” Lewis wrote in his 41-page ruling.

Florida: G.O.P. Seeks Delay on New Districts | New York Times

Two top Republican leaders in Florida announced Tuesday that the Legislature would redraw the boundaries for the two congressional seats that a judge ruled unconstitutional, but they said they did not want the map to take effect until the 2016 elections. In agreeing, for the moment, not to appeal Thursday’s state court decision, Will Weatherford, the State House speaker, and Don Gaetz, the State Senate president, are hoping to persuade the judge that the 2014 elections would be thrown into “chaos” if the process was rushed. The Legislature’s decision surprised analysts and lawyers who expected a protracted legal fight. Still, the possibility of an appeal remains, depending on the judge’s decision.

Editorials: Florida redistricting was politics as usual | Daytona Beach News-Journal

A Florida circuit judge will decide by the end of this month whether Republican legislators violated a state constitutional amendment in 2012 when they drew district maps for seats in the Legislature and Congress. But the recently concluded trial already has demonstrated that lawmakers at minimum violated the public’s trust with their secretive methods. In 2010 voters approved the “Fair Districts” amendments, which stipulated that when state lawmakers meet every 10 years to redraw legislative and congressional boundaries, they could no longer favor incumbents or members of a political party (a process known as “gerrymandering,” which both parties have engaged in when they held the majority).

Florida: Day Three of redistricting: Window into reality and the defense of secret deals as ‘entirely proper’ | Miami Herald

Senate President Don Gaetz testified under oath Wednesday that it was “entirely proper” for him to meet in secret with House Speaker Will Weatherford to reach a deal over a congressional map as part of the Legislature’s once-a-decade redistricting process. Gaetz, R-Niceville, who along with Weatherford was chairman of his chamber’s redistricting maps in 2011-12, told the court that he and Weatherford met twice and agreed to settle on the Senate’s map design for the final joint congressional map. It included a provision that boosted the number of black voters in the meandering congressional District 5, a Democrat-majority district that slices through dozens of towns to collect black voters from Jacksonville to Orlando. “It was entirely proper, it was entirely ordinary that we would meet as two committee chairs to work out differences,’’ Gaetz said during more than three hours of testimony.

Florida: Redistricting, gerrymandering trial begins | The News Herald

A high-stakes trial that could decide the future of the state’s congressional districts began Monday in Tallahassee , as a Republican political consultant testified that he didn’t influence the drawing of U.S. House lines in 2012. The testimony of Marc Reichelderfer marked the beginning of the first-ever court battle over the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process under the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts amendments. Those constitutional standards, passed by voters in 2010, bar lawmakers from drawing lines intended to harm or favor parties or candidates when overhauling legislative and congressional districts after each U.S. Census. Over three weeks, members of the Tallahassee establishment ranging from behind-the-scenes aides and consultants like Reichelderfer to high-profile politicians like House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz are expected to answer questions about their role in redistricting as it unfolded two years ago. Weatherford and Gaetz could testify as soon as this week; former House Speaker Dean Cannon is also expected to be called to the stand during the trial.

Florida: Oops! Lawmakers destroyed redistricting records | Orlando Sentinel

n new court filings, House and Senate Republican leaders are conceding they deleted records related to the 2012 re-drawing of congressional and legislative maps. The voting-rights groups — including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and individual voters — challenging Florida’s re-drawn congressional maps notified a Leon County court Wednesday that they intended to place House and Senate officials under oath to find out what documents were destroyed and why. “The admission that redistricting records were destroyed should have Florida voters up in arms,” League President Deirdre Macnab said in a statement. But House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, shot back that the “accusation that the Florida House … thwarted the law and destroyed documents is completely false.” “The opponents in this lawsuit have received thousands and thousands of documents,” Weatherford said. “They should know better.”

Florida: Democrat says Scott not pursuing voter registration fraud linked to GOP | Tampa Bay Times

Is Gov. Rick Scott covering up GOP voter registration fraud? The future leader of the House Democrats thinks perhaps he is and is asking Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford to hold legislative hearings on what he says could be an attempt by Scott to “stifle” a criminal investigation. “I have been following the many news media reports about rampant fraud regarding voter registration drives associated with the company Strategic Allied Consulting and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation that was tasked by Gov. Rick Scott some months ago,” states a letter that Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, sent out Tuesday afternoon.

Florida: Election Reform In Florida: Is The Conversation Over? | WFSU

Governor Rick Scott has signed Florida’s new elections reform bill into law, but will that solve the problems that arose during last year’s Presidential election? Some say yes, but others say there’s more work to do stop long lines at the polls and protect the state from further embarrassment. Last year, Florida encountered a lot of problems during the 2012 presidential election from counting delays to long lines at the polls. “You shouldn’t have to wait four or five days after the election to know who won the electoral votes from the state of Florida. We shouldn’t be yellow when everyone else is red or blue. We should be able to get that right. You shouldn’t have to wait for six hours to vote,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford following a Work Plan Tour in Tampa.

Florida: Elections bill to fix long voter lines stalls over Miami-Dade elections office | Miami Herald

Embarrassed by an elections meltdown, lawmakers headed to the Florida Capitol this year with a pledge to undo a law that helped lead to long lines, angry voters and jeers about “Flori-duh.” But the elections clean-up bill that the House passed on the very first day of the legislative session has yet to pass the Legislature as the last day dawns. Lawmakers overwhelmingly support the plan to reverse a 2011 election law by expanding the number of early voting sites and days. The bill also gives people a chance to correct an absentee ballot they forgot to sign and would make it easier to prosecute people caught with multiple absentee ballots. But there’s a major hang-up between the House and Senate: a plan to punish election supervisors deemed ineffective and “noncompliant” with the state’s election code.

Florida: Voting rights watchdogs give thumbs down to Florida elections bill | Palm Beach Post

Several Florida organizations that watchdog voting rights issues are giving a thumbs down to the elections bill currently awaiting a vote in the Florida legislature. In a letter delivered to House Speaker Will Weatherford, the organizations argue that the bill has a disproportionately harmful impact on minorities and they offer several recommendations for strengthening the measure. HB 7013 gives supervisors of elections discretion to decide if their county should have early voting between eight and 14 days. Before the GOP-controlled legislature rewrote elections law in 2011, 14 days of early voting was mandatory. The change contributed to long lines in the 2012 election, the groups say in their letter, and they ask that those 14 days be restored.

Florida: House Speaker Weatherford opposed to GOP Electoral College plans | Tampa Bay Times

Republicans in five states, notably Virginia, have discussed changing the way they award Electoral College votes in presidential races by apportioning them on each congressional district, rather than thestate’s popular vote. The reason: Republican Mitt Romney would have won the presidency despite losing the popular vote in states where the GOP controls the legislatures: Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. But Florida, the largest swing state, won’t go along with changing the Electoral College if Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has any say (and he has a major say).