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Gaetz: No Appeal Of Redistricting Ruling

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FLSenate.gov
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There will be no appeal of last week’s ruling which struck down Florida’s congressional map that was drawn in 2012. The redistricting plan was declared unconstitutional by a judge in Tallahassee.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that Districts 5 and 10 were drawn to benefit Republicans and need changing. Seven other districts that had been challenged do not need to be redrawn.

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, who along with House Speaker Will Weatherford led the redistricting effort, announced Tuesday that the Legislature does not plan to appeal Lewis’ ruling.

“We knew when we got into the Fair Districts issues a couple of years ago, that it would be difficult, that it would be confusing,” Gaetz said. “And we were told everywhere we went in Florida that no matter how we drew the lines or how we drew the lines, that we’d be sued. And so we were.”

Lewis found fault with districts held by U.S. Representatives Corrine Brown, a Democrat, and Dan Webster, a Republican. Gaetz says lawmakers will redraw the districts but want the changes to take effect with the 2016 elections, instead of the upcoming 2014 vote, because absentee and overseas ballots already have gone out.

Judge Lewis’ 41-page opinion also criticized the involvement of GOP political consultants, whom he said conspired to manipulate and influence the redistricting process – making a mockery of the legislature’s proclaimed transparency. Gaetz concedes that Republican operatives did try to influence the work, adding that Democrats were guilty too.

“What I was pleased about was that the judge, even though he made scathing references to those political consultants,” said Gaetz, “he also indicated that the professional staff of the House Redistricting Committee and the Senate Reapportionment Committee were professional, [and] were not affected by the efforts.”

Among those lining up against the redistricting were the League of Women Voters. Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, says another opponent of the judge’s order was one of the lawmakers directly affected: the Fifth District’s Corinne Brown.

“She is, of course, an African-American who was elected initially due to federal court rulings that created that district,” McManus said. “So, this could very well end up in federal court, which would delay it even further.”

Florida voters approved constitutional amendments in 2010 that banned lawmakers from drawing political districts favoring one party or incumbent. After the Republican-controlled Legislature approved new maps in 2012, an alliance of voting rights groups filed suit – arguing that the new districts violated the amendment.

The Supreme Court invalidated the Legislature's first draft of a state Senate plan, which was then redrawn before the 2012 elections. Sen. Don Gaetz – who steps down as President in November – says they’ll be back next year for another try at re-drawing the lines to comply with the court’s order.

But, it will be Judge Terry Lewis’ call on whether to let the Legislature redraw the maps. His ruling did not specify who should redraw or when. The plaintiffs have filed a motion asking for a hearing to figure out what to do, preferably before the August 26th primary.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.