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 Circuit Court 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.
He also said he was considering calling a special election after Nov. 4 for candidates in the districts with new boundaries. Voting would proceed normally for all the other races on the ballot.
But legislators want the new districts to take effect in 2016 and said that if Lewis attempts to hold a special election to implement the new boundaries this year, they will oppose it — potentially challenging his decision in state or federal court.
"Florida’s Supervisors of Elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date,’’ wrote Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel and Gaetz, R-Niceville. “The NAACP also pointed out in their motion to Judge Lewis that, ‘In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist.’"
Under most scenarios, any changes to Brown and Webster’s districts could force changes in surrounding districts held by incumbent U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw, Ted Yoho, Ron DeSantis, John Mica and Bill Posey, all Republicans.
Under a map proposed by the Democrat-leaning voting groups that filed the lawsuit, Brown’s district — which now snakes through North Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando, packing in Democrats and black voters — would be revised to be primarily a Jacksonville-based seat but cut across the top edge of the state into Tallahassee. Story here.
Map: Coalition plaintiffs proposed remedial map, exhibit 2