Judge tosses Dem's challenge to Congressional maps
A Leon County judge declined to set aside the state's new congressional maps Monday, saying opponents of the plans had not proven that the Legislature violated new anti-gerrymandering standards.
The ruling is the latest in a string of wins for state Republican leaders.
Friday, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the Senate's second attempt at drawing new state districts after justices tossed an earlier draft. And Monday the U.S. Justice Department told the state that all of its Congressional maps had gained pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act.
The ruling by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis did not fully settle the issues in the case. His ruling only dealt with a request by lawyers for a coalition of voting rights groups and a group of voters backed by the Florida Democratic Party to throw out the maps based on undisputed facts. But Lewis said many of the facts are still in dispute.
Lewis also rejected a request by critics of the maps to issue an injunction that would prevent the state from using the new lines until he could rule on the merits of the case.
"Without a finding that the map as draw is unconstitutional, I do not have the authority to replace it with another map while the case is pending," Lewis wrote.
The case is the first ruling on congressional maps under the Fair Districts constitutional amendments approved by the voters in November 2010. It is separate from the Supreme Court's consideration of the legislative maps, though the justices could be asked to review Lewis' ruling and any final decision on the redistricting plan if a trial goes forward.
STATEMENT FROM FDP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SCOTT ARCENEAUX:
"Last fall, Florida voters overwhelmingly demanded an end to partisan gerrymandering and incumbent protection. The Florida Democratic Party led an unprecedented effort to ensure that the will of the people was heard in the redistricting process and to hold the Republican-led Legislature accountable to Florida's Constitution. We remain concerned about elements of the map and we will continue to evaluate our legal options moving forward. We have and will always be on the side of Florida voters in calling for fairness, transparency, and accountability from Florida's elected officials."