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News Section: State Government

Judge Orders New Maps in Gerrymandered Congressional Districts

Published Saturday, August 2, 2014 12:08 am

BRADENTON – Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis has given the Florida Legislature two weeks to design a new congressional map for Central Florida that doesn't conflict with the state's Fair District requirements. With the Primary Election set for August 26, those involved are bracing for chaos.

Three weeks ago, Lewis ruled that seats held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) and Daniel Webster (R-Winter Garden) were drawn by lawmakers with partisan intent, violating the Fair Districts Act, an amendment to the state constitution that was passed by voter referendum in 2012.

The Legislature did not appeal the ruling, but their lawyers argued that they should have until the 2016 elections to redo the maps for those districts. The groups that filed suit, led by the League of Women Voters of Florida, argued that since the maps were found unconstitutional, Lewis had an obligation to prevent them from being used in the primary, as well as the November 4 general election.

Judge Lewis said there was no ideal solution considering that absentee ballots had already been cast, but nonetheless ordered the Legislature to draw a new map by August 15, with an August 20 hearing for both sides to argue over its merits.

"It is necessary to get a revised map in place and for me to consider additional evidence as to the legal and logistical obstacles to holding delayed elections for affected districts in 2014," Lewis wrote in his ruling.

The League of Women Voters of Florida applauded the ruling.

"This is a champagne moment for Florida voters, who have waited too long for fairly drawn congressional districts," said LWV of Florida President Deirdre Macnab in a release. "Per his ruling, Judge Lewis has laid out a path that will allow all Florida voters, for the first time in decades, to elect their representatives in fair and constitutional districts. We believe that the restoration of legitimate, representative democracy is well worth one extra trip to the polls.

"Although it is deplorable that the Legislature's failure to follow the standards laid out in the state Constitution has led us to this place, now that they have been tasked with redrawing the districts between now and August 15, it is critical that their process follows the will of the people and adheres to the letter and spirit of Fair Districts amendments 5 and 6, as they were passed by an overwhelming majority of the electorate in 2010.

"Judge Lewis has shown that legislative violation of our Constitution will not be tolerated, will have consequences, and that the will of the people will be enforced. This gives hope to other states grappling with the cancer of political gerrymandering and the League is thrilled to see that the people's voice has been heard."

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Since Republicans cannot count on the votes from key demographic sectors of the electorate, they have opted for a different approach -- reduce the number of these citizens who are able to vote.

And so they have strategized (and to some extent, implemented) a multi pronged effort to curtail the ability of minority, student, and elderly voters to participate in the election process:

1) Make it more difficult to "prove" your citizenship via voter ID legislation, fully aware that the elderly, out-of-state college students, and socio-economically disenfranchised citizens will have a much more difficult time providing the narrowly-de?ned necessary documentation to verify their right to vote.

2) Cull the registration database for names deemed to "probably" be ?ctitious or otherwise fraudulent.
(Anyone whose surname ends in "-ez" is most certainly an invalid registrant ?)

3) Eliminate or drastically reduce early voting and/or reduce the number of election precincts., since student, poor, and elderly voters tend to have a more difficult time getting to the polls on the first Tuesday of November, and urban precincts are more likely to have extremely long lines that require you to stand for hours in line.

4) Create modern equivalents of the poll tax (part of the old Jim Crow laws) wherein selected demographic groups must incur out-of-pocket expenses to retain the right to vote.

5) Use gerrymandering policies to redistrict red states so that predominantly white rural regions that represent a minority of the populace attain the majority of the voting power.

With respect to the voter ID legislation/registered voter purges that have been pushed forth by Republican-controlled state legislatures under the guise of reducing nonexistent "voter fraud", GOP legislators should simply cut to the chase and proclaim that the only Americans who have a legitimate right to vote are those who are registered members of the Republican Party.
Posted by Labman57 on August 4, 2014

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