Florida lawmakers called into special sesssion on redistricting

Lloyd Dunkelberger | Herald Tribune | 08/03/2014

TALLAHASSEE _ Lawmakers will return to Tallahassee on Thursday for a special session to redraw congressional district lines that were invalidated by a court ruling.


House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, sent an email message to House members tonight informing lawmakers of the special session, which is the result of Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis declaring the districts were invalid and calling for lawmakers to prepare a revised redistricting map by Aug. 15.


Weatherford said he and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, are calling lawmakers into the session despite “our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process.” He noted ballots for the Aug. 26 primary have already been sent overseas to military members and Floridians are already casting absentee ballots in the primary election.


Last month, Lewis invalidated the 2012 congressional map drawn by lawmakers by finding that districts for U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando, violate a state constitutional ban on drawing districts based on partisan considerations.


Here is Weatherford’s email to members:

Dear Members:
In response to the rulings issued by Judge Lewis on July 10, 2014 and August 1, 2014, the Florida Legislature has decided to produce a Congressional map to address the Court’s limited concerns. Accordingly, the House and Senate have agreed to call ourselves into special session on Thursday, August 7 for the sole and exclusive purpose of reapportioning Florida’s Congressional Districts.


We continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process. Florida’s Supervisors of Elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date. The NAACP also pointed out in their response to Judge Lewis that, “In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist. Voters who face challenges to political participation – be it financial, job scheduling, transportation, or other impediments – will be irreparably harmed by conducting the election at a time where that infrastructure does not exist.”


Tens of thousands of our service men and women overseas have received their ballots, and over one million absentee ballots have been mailed to Floridians. Members, we intend to vigorously defend the integrity and validity of Floridians’ votes that have already been and will be cast in the upcoming election.


I understand that calling a special session at this late date will require you to rearrange your schedules. I have directed staff to provide you with detailed information tomorrow to assist you with your travel arrangements.


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