Judge rebukes defendants in FL redistricting case

TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- The Leon County judge who ruled that the legislature illegally drew political maps to favor the Republican party expressed strong words in his final judgment.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled the maps adopted in 2012 be redrawn. He ordered specifically two of the state's 27 districts be fixed to fit within the 2010 "Fair Districts" constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters. It says that legislators could no longer draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party.

READ:Judy Lewis' final judgment (PDF)

The plaintiffs, which included the League of Women Voters of Florida, argued that legislative staff and leaders worked with political consultants to produce a map that violated the state constitution.

Also, Judge Lewis pointed out that districts "should not have an unusual shape, a bizarre design, or an unnecessary appendage unless it is necessary to comply with some other requirement."

That's how he felt about District 5, held by Democratic Congresswoman Corinne Brown, who disagreed with his ruling.

"Subtle shifts in a district boundary line can make the difference between a district that is 'safe' for a political party or one that is 'competitive' between the two," Lewis said.

"What is clear to me from the evidence... is that this group of Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process.

"They made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process."

It's still unclear whether this decision will effect this year's November elections, but the legislature is expected to appeal the ruling, which means it probably will not.


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