Justices delay congressional redistricting arguments by a week

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 10/15/2015

The Florida Supreme Court delayed by a week arguments in the state’s pivotal congressional redistricting case — now setting the hearing for Nov. 10.

Justices earlier this week had ordered lawyers for the state House, Senate and voters’ groups to appear before them Nov. 2 to argue the merits of a congressional map recommended by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.

But the House on Thursday asked for more time — saying the original date clashed with a key hearing in the Legislature’s special session on redrawing Senate boundaries, set to begin Monday.

Lewis recommended boundaries for Florida’s 27 congressional districts that would take effect in time for next year’s elections following a three-day hearing earlier this month.

The courts have taken over what is supposed to be a once-a-decade process of reconfiguring voting districts after the Legislature had two earlier maps ruled unconstitutional.

Lawmakers made a third attempt at crafting congressional lines in August, but failed to agree on a new plan.

Lawyers for the House, Senate and a pair of voting groups will have 20 minutes each to make their case to the state’s seven justices.

In Palm Beach County, the proposal recommended by Lewis dramatically changes three of the four congressional districts which course through the county.

Districts now held by U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Ted Deutch,

D-Boca Raton, would undergo the most revision.

Frankel’s District 22 would become Broward County-based, and include only Boca Raton and Highland Beach in the former West Palm Beach mayor’s home county.

Deutch’s current, two-county district — which like Frankel’s, runs north-to-south — would instead be contained completely in Palm Beach County.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, would lose Hendry County from his District 20, in exchange for gaining a larger portion of Broward. The district would continue to include a majority of black voters, but also lose a section that splits six Palm Beach County cities, mostly along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

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