TALLAHASSEE — A judge have given the Florida Legislature two weeks to design a new congressional map for Central Florida that doesn’t conflict with the state’s anti-gerrymandering requirements, a move that could potentially send the election season into chaos.
The decision comes three weeks after Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis found that two seats held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, were drawn by lawmakers with improper partisan intent.
The Legislature’s lawyers opted initially not to appeal the ruling but argued Lewis was required to give them until the 2016 elections to fix the maps. The groups that sued in 2012 to block them, the League of Women Voters of Florida and others, made the case in court last week that Lewis had an obligation to prevent the unconstitutional maps from being used in this month’s primary, and the Nov. 4 general election.
In his ruling issued Friday, Lewis said he agreed with lawmakers that they should get to re-draw the map, and that there was no ideal solution with absentee ballots already being cast. Nonetheless, he ordered the Legislature to produce a new map by Aug. 15, and set an Aug. 20 hearing for both sides to argue over its merits.
“It is necessary to get a revised map in place and for me to consider additional evidence as to the legal and logistical obstacles to holding delayed elections for affected districts in 2014,” Lewis wrote.