Lawyers for Legislature and elections officials tell judge no "window of time" for redistricting re-do

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 07/17/2014

The attorney for the voters’ coalition which successfully challenged Florida’s congressional map urged a judge Thursday to consider ordering lawmakers to recast districts in time for this fall’s elections.

But attorneys for the Legislature, Secretary of State’s office, and the state’s county elections supervisors, said it’s too late for a re-do of boundaries during a brief hearing before Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.

“There just doesn’t seem to be any window of time,” said Ron Labasky, attorney for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.

Lewis set another hearing date next Thursday — giving David King, attorney for the voters’ groups — time to come up with a proposed approach to resolving the dispute over the map.

Lewis last week invalidated the map approved by the Republican-ruled Legislature in 2012, concluding that two districts were drawn to help the GOP retain overwhelming control of Florida’s 27-member congressional delegation.

King told Lewis that the state should not go ahead with holding elections using a map ruled unconstitutional. The plan was already used for congressional contests in 2012.

“We think this is so important,” King argued. “We’ve already had one election with an unconstitutional map in 2012.”

Overseas absentee ballots have already been mailed to voters for the Aug. 26 primary and tens of thousands more are scheduled to go out next week to Florida absentee voters across the country, attorneys for the Legislature and elections officials countered.

Some ballots have already been returned, they pointed out. Also, the attorneys added that if the Legislature were forced to redraw boundaries, it would force the state to delay the Aug. 26 primary — which creates another potential conflict with the Nov. 4 general election date., set under state and federal law.

For his part, Lewis mostly listened. But he acknowledged that when issuing his ruling last week, he hadn’t considered its potential impact on this fall’s contests.

“I thought one side or the other would appeal,” Lewis told the attorneys.

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