Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled on a new congressional map on Friday, ultimately recommending the state use the map proposed by the League of Women Voters of Florida to redraw the state’s congressional line.
Lewis’ recommendation now heads to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in July that the Florida Legislature needed to redraw Florida’s congressional maps so that they complied with Florida’s anti-gerrymandering stance.
The Florida Legislature reconvened for a special legislative session in August to work on an agreeable map for both chambers, but although the House and Senate initially promised to commit to creating a fairly-drawn set of congressional districts, negotiations crumbled at the eleventh hour and state lawmakers left Tallahassee with no mutually agreed-upon map.
That disagreement led to Lewis becoming responsible for reviewing the maps and making a recommendation to the Supreme Court on the new set of maps, with each chamber and the plaintiffs of the case making recommendations on a proposed set of maps.
Lewis agreed with the bulk majority of the state’s congressional map, leaving 20 of Florida’s 27 districts intact, the the way the state Legislature intended to craft the maps. But instead of going along with either the House or Senate’s plan, Lewis ultimately decided to go with the plaintiffs’ maps, a serious blow to the Florida Legislature.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said staffers took the utmost care as to not become involved in partisan dealings.
“The court found that the Legislature took appropriate steps to guard against improper partisan intent, and that there was no evidence that legislative staff had any intent to favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent,” he said.
Crisafulli also seemed to criticize the recommended map, which he believed was basically the same map as the House’s proposal.
“However, the court also found the CP-1 map, submitted by the Coalition Plaintiffs, offered better tier two performance, and was therefore the map recommended to the Supreme Court. CP-1 is essentially the House map, with changes focused on Districts 20, 26, and 27,” he said.
When the plaintiffs and the Legislature put out both of their maps, some questioned and criticized the validity of the plaintiffs’ maps because they had been reviewed by the Democratic Congressional Caucus Committee before their submission.
Lewis’ recommendation did give a hat tip to the House when it came to Hillsborough County, where everyone in the area south of the Alafia River in Eastern Hillsborough County would end up being represented by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. Buchanan would lose half of Sarasota County as part of Lewis’ recommendation.
The recommendation has heavy implications for congressmen in Northern Florida. If the map is accepted, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has a strong possibility of losing her seat in Congress, as her district would become more Republican.
U.S. Rep. Dan Webster’s district also could fall into jeopardy as part of the new congressional lines -- his district, District 10, would be entirely redrawn, becoming more saturated with Democrats and Hispanics, making it difficult for Webster to win in that area.
Judge Lewis’ recommendation now heads to the Florida Supreme Court for review.
Reach Allison Nielsen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org