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Politics / Issues

Judge Recommends New Fl. Congressional Map

The new map would shift the boundaries of Congressional districts in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis recommended Friday that the Florida Supreme Court adopt a set of congressional districts proposed by voting-rights organizations.

The ruling is a blow to the state House and Senate, which argued that maps drawn by lawmakers and aides would better comply with Florida's anti-gerrymandering "Fair Districts" standards.

The League of Women Voters, along with Common Cause and several other plaintiffs, sued after the Florida Legislature redrew congressional districts in 2012. The redistricting is supposed to take place every ten years based on new census numbers. But in 2010, voters approved two state constitutional amendments that required new districts to be compact, contiguous, and to not benefit a political party or incumbent.

Lewis found that the 2012 map violated those rules and approved a quick fix that was supposed to apply after the 2014 election. But the Florida Supreme Court overturned Lewis' decision and took issue with eight congressional districts it said had to be redrawn. Two were in Tampa Bay.

The map that was selected was drawn by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida. During a visit to Tampa last month, League president Pam Goodman said her group has been active in at least eight lawsuits over the past few years over Congressional redistricting.

"At every step along the way, we have said keep going. We have been fighting for this for 76 years, and the fact that we can see the goal posts in sight, and we are almost there, and the importance of having fair districts for our voters in this state is our goal," she said.

Peter Butzin is chair of Common Cause Florida.

“We’re thrilled," he said in a written statement. "The Circuit Court has adopted our plan, out of seven it had to consider. We look forward to favorable action by the Florida Supreme Court.”

The case will ultimately be decided by the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in July that maps drawn by the Legislature in 2012 unconstitutionally favored Republicans.

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