Florida elections face uncertainty as congressional maps redrawn

TALLAHASSEE Fla. Mon Aug 4, 2014 5:59pm EDT

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TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - Florida's state legislature will reconvene later this week to redraw district maps that a judge has found unconstitutional, clouding the outcome of congressional races and possibly forcing delays in elections.

Three weeks before the Aug. 26 primaries, voting officials raced to research the logistics of a special election in a large swing state already under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice for its history of voting problems in major elections.

Experts say it is unclear how many congressional districts could see changes when lawmakers gather on Thursday to redraw the maps. Dates for local elections and a toss-up governor's race would not be affected, but any voter confusion could affect turnout, which typically is low in midterm elections.

"The jigsaw puzzle has too many pieces to say what is going to happen," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. "It’s very volatile."

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Friday gave legislators an Aug. 15 deadline to submit new congressional maps and scheduled for the following week a hearing on possibly delaying the affected elections. Republican leaders argued that the changes should be delayed until after the 2014 elections.

Lewis previously ruled that two of the state's 27 congressional districts must be redrawn, finding that Republican leaders "made a mockery" of a voter-approved requirement prohibiting legislators from protecting incumbents.

He invalidated a district held by Democrat Corrine Brown that follows a snake-like path from northeastern Jacksonville to the center of the state, packing in black voters. Adjoining districts were left heavily Republican and white, including Republican Daniel Webster's Orlando-area tract, which was also voided.

Changes to both districts could ricochet through at least a half dozen others from the Panhandle to the Tampa Bay region.

Voters in each tract would need to be notified of changes, and candidates given time to run for office, said attorney Ron Labasky, lobbyist for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.

"You can't just say, 'Let's have an election,'" he said. "Even if everything runs smoothly, always a caveat in Florida, it takes time."

The League of Women Voters of Florida, which led the successful court challenge, called for vigilance as it presses legislators to fix the boundaries before the election.

"It remains to be seen whether they will produce a map that meets constitutional requirements," said state president Deirdre Macnab in a statement.

(Additional reporting and writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (8)
carnivalchaos wrote:
The federal government needs to scrutinize our entire election system, including state and local elections. We need a fair, standardized system for state redistricting and to ban gerrymandering. The United States allows our politicians far too much discretion in areas pertaining to our elections. There’s too much abuse of our system. We need to get back to fairness, to get back to making government about the American people, and true proportional representation.

Aug 04, 2014 6:43pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:

I agree. The Gerrymandering process is supposed to be about population shifts, not ensuring Democrat/Republican incumbents easy wins.

Aug 04, 2014 7:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:

Office of Senator
United States Senate
Washington DC 20511
Office of__________________
US House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
In opposition of geographic districts, a gerrymander against proportioned representation. Gerrymander is egregious to this constituent.
Gerrymander Antidote:
The people vote for any state wide legislative Representative candidate, in the same manner as any two Senator(s). After balloting, each respective Representative tallies his/her vote, and if equal to or larger than the minimum he/she fills one of the Legislative Congressional House Representative seats. Minimum defined by the cumulative number of ballots cast within that state. If he/she needs ballots to qualify for the seat, he/she then compromises issues among all candidates to use his/her ballots fill the seats. After a period of barter time, free ballots are re-allocated by the then state governor.

This is Postcard ready…

Aug 05, 2014 6:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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