Opponents Battling Over Florida's Districts Push Fight To Next Week

Jul 17, 2014

Here's Judge Terry Lewis holding court Thursday morning.
Credit Nick Evans

A judge threw out Florida’s congressional districts last week, and the legislature has declined to appeal the decision.  But parties to the case are wrangling over when changes will be made. 

Florida faces a decision between holding an election with an unconstitutional map, or redrawing the map through a process that could itself be unconstitutional.  J. Andrew Atkinson, attorney for the Florida secretary of state, says the timeline for preparing and carrying out an election means creating new districts in time for this year’s election is a practical impossibility. The deadline for mailing absentee ballots to military and overseas voters 45 days before the primary has already passed. And Atkinson says the primary can’t bemoved.

“There’s too little time between the primary and the general to then achieve compliance with the 45 day requirement for the general and the general is set by federal statute,” Atkinson says.

There actually is some room for moving the primary.  That election is held August 26 and the last day for sending general election absentee ballots is almost four weeks later on September 20.  

But officials like Atkinson say that turnaround time is necessary for preparing the general election ballot.  Lawyers from the coalition that challenged the districts plan to respond at a hearing next week.