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Sorry, Legislature! Congressional Redistricting Might Not Be an Easy Fix

August 6, 2014 - 6:00pm
After almost 14 years since the 2000 presidential election, Florida politics are still the stuff of late night TV fodder. Jokes about hanging chads and confused ballots remain par for the course and, by striking down the congressional districts, Judge Terry Lewis is setting up more material for comedians.

Responding to Lewis cracking the whip and setting up a two-week deadline to draw new districts, on Thursday the Florida Legislature started its special session to tackle redistricting. Barred by law from fundraising during session, legislators want to get out of Tallahassee as quickly as possible, especially those senators and representatives who face primaries in less than three weeks. They want to make as few changes to the districts as possible and have those take effect in 2016.

But that might not be enough for Lewis and the League of Women Voters. Lewis waited until after absentee and oversea ballots had been sent out for the Aug. 26 primary to issue his demand for a special session. The League of Women Voters wants the districts changed as quickly as possible, never mind the votes already cast and the absurdity of having some Floridians voting for candidates in the August primary and the November general election while having other candidates on the ballot in the December special election.

County election boards are forced to get ready for a special election in December. A few elections supervisors have mentioned Dec. 6 as the possible date for a special election, extending campaign season by another month.

Floridians wont get a break if thats the case. By the middle of October, many voters will be fed up with attack ads taking over their television and radio. Their mailboxes will be cluttered with campaign flyers. Extend that another month, even as Floridians turn their attention away from politics and back to Thanksgiving, football, holiday shopping, family trips, Christmas and Hanukkah. Voters will tune out of politics, especially those who have already voted at least once and possibly twice for candidates who no longer represent them.

And even then it might not be over. Lewis could draw up his own map, but if he decides to accept the slight changes made by the Legislature, the League of Women Voters could continue their efforts and appeal the new map. If Lewis decides a special election doesnt need to take place and the new districts can take effect in 2016, the League could also appeal that decision.

Then there is the Corrine Brown factor. Brown, whose district was ruled by Lewis to be unconstitutional, had made noises that she will appeal if her seat is altered and she could bring the federal courts into the matter.

Legislators want to make redistricting as easy as possible. But this thing has the potential to get messy and confusing, leading to more jokes about voting in Florida.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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