Florida approves new voting maps from GOP gerrymandering
TALLAHASSEE — The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature on Monday swiftly passed new maps that will alter several of the state's congressional districts because a judge ruled the current districts were illegally drawn to benefit the GOP.
The changes would alter seven of the state's 27 congressional districts, but it's not certain whether the revised map will change the makeup of Florida's congressional delegation. Republicans hold a 17-10 edge.
The vote was largely along partisan lines as Democrats complained that the new map still doesn't reflect that Florida is a battleground state with a divided electorate. The Senate passed the measure, 25-12, with the House following by a 71-38 vote.
“What we've done is really just window dressing,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
Legislators held a three-day special session to fix the congressional map after Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that two districts were drawn illegally. Lewis gave legislators until Aug. 15 to draw a new map.
Republicans who led the effort to draw the new map contended that the changes should pass muster with the judge.
“It's an excellent map that should comply with the judge's order,” said Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes and chairman of the committee that came up with the revised districts.
Even with new districts in place, it's not clear when they will be implemented. Lewis must decide whether to call a special election for later this year. Legislative leaders have said they plan to oppose any effort to call one.
Voters in 2010 passed the “Fair Districts” amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party, a practice known as gerrymandering. A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters, contended that the GOP consultants used a “shadow” process to draw districts that benefited Republicans.
Lewis said there was enough evidence to show that consultants helped make a “mockery” of the process.