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Florida legislature adopts new congressional district map

The Florida legislature rearranged the furniture in a new congressional district map but appeared to protect incumbents, an expert said.
By Frances Burns   |   Aug. 12, 2014 at 3:11 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The new congressional district map approved by the Florida legislature to comply with a judge's order appears likely to face another court challenge.

The map, which rearranges seven districts in the region between Orlando and Jacksonville, was adopted Monday. Gov. Rick Scott was expected to sign it, meeting a Friday deadline set by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis.

Critics said the new map is basically the old map. Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from the Palm Beach area, called it "window dressing."

"A lot of furniture has been rearranged but it looks like the old house with the same rooms," said Michael McDonald, an expert on redistricting who teaches at the University of Florida. "I would not think any incumbents will be defeated as a result of this plan."

Lewis, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters, found that two districts failed to meet the state's Fair Districts standards. One, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown, appeared designed to pack most Democrats in Jacksonville and in areas between there and Orlando into a single district, while the other, held by Republican Rep. Dan Webster, is in the Orlando area with some small appendages.

The judge ordered a special session. He also suggested he might call a special election.

Republicans said they were confident the map will win approval.

"If that is a Republican map, I'm proudly and utterly guilty of doing that," said state Rep. Richard Corcoran, who heads the House Redistricting Committee. "I have no doubt it will be found constitutional."

But the League of Women Voters is already planning another court fight.

"We do not believe Map 9057 complies with Judge Lewis' order or the Fair Districts Amendments," said Deirdre Macnab, the president of the Florida chapter. "We will continue to urge Judge Lewis to adopt a constitutionally compliant map for the 2014 elections."

The map passed in a largely party-line vote. Two Democrats in each house, all from the Jacksonville area, voted with Republicans in what appeared to be a move to ensure Brown will keep her seat.

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