Congressional redistricting decision not expected before October

Lloyd Dunkelberger | Herald Tribune | 09/24/2015

TALLAHASSEE Sarasota County voters won’t know if they will be in one congressional district or split between two districts until October.

A three-day trial on the Legislature’s redistricting plans began today in Tallahassee but Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he would give lawyers until Oct. 2 to submit their proposed orders once the trial concludes Monday.

That means Lewis’ decision on a new map for Florida’s 27 congressional will not come any earlier than the second week of October. And whatever map Lewis approves will be advanced as a recommendation to the Florida Supreme Court, which has the ultimate authority in deciding the final configuration of the map.

The state’s highest court has given lawmakers until Oct. 17 to resolve the redistricting issue.

The redistricting issue returned to Lewis’ courtroom after the House and Senate failed to agree on a new redistricting plan in an August special session, which was prompted when the Supreme Court in July found the prior map violated the state constitutional prohibition against drawing districts that favor incumbents or political parties.

The House and groups that challenged the original congressional map, including the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause, are advancing maps in the new trial that would split Sarasota County between districts now held by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee.

The Senate is backing two map versions that would keep Sarasota County in one congressional district.

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