Legislative Leaders Officially Call Special Session for Redistricting

Kevin Derby | Sunshine State News | 08/04/2014

On Monday, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, officially called a special session to redraw congressional districts after a Leon County circuit judge ruled their previous efforts failed to pass constitutional muster.

Leon County Judge Terry Lewis ordered the Legislature on Friday to draw up new maps by Aug. 15. Last month, Lewis ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters which challenged the congressional districts drawn up by the Legislature in 2012, arguing they did not meet the standards mandated by two state constitutional amendments voters passed in 2010.

In response, the legislative leaders called the Legislature into a special session starting on Thursday with committee meetings scheduled for Friday. Despite the looming primaries some incumbents are facing on Aug. 26, Gaetz and Weatherford told legislators on Monday that they should expect to be in Tallahassee most of next week. The special session is scheduled to end on Friday, Aug. 15.

Gaetz and Weatherford continued to oppose Lewis’ suggestion that a special election could be held after the regular election in November.

“We continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process,” Gaetz and Weatherford wrote in a memo accompanying the special session declaration. “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 motion 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.’”

Noting that many ballots have already been sent out for the primary later this month, Gaetz and Weatherford stressed they would look to ensure congressional redistricting did not impact the current elections.

“Tens of thousands of our service men and women overseas have received their ballots, and over 1 million absentee ballots have been mailed to Floridians,” Gaetz and Weatherford noted. “We intend to vigorously defend the integrity and validity of Floridians’ votes that have already been cast, and that will be cast in the upcoming election.”

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