The Florida legislature approved changes to its congressional districts Monday, ordered by a judge just months before the midterm elections. It is still unclear whether the judge will order special election dates to implement the redrawn districts.
The circuit court judge, Terry Lewis, ruled in early July that Florida's map violated a 2010 law passed by voters that prohibits legislators from favoring incumbents or a particular political party when drawing congressional maps. Specifically, Lewis found that two of the 27 districts - the 5th district seat, held by Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., and the 10th district seat, held by Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla. - had been drawn to benefit Republicans.
The Florida House Speaker convened a special session earlier this month to redraw the maps, which ultimately affected seven districts in central Florida.Monday's vote broke down along party lines in both the House and Senate, with Democrats saying the new plans do nothing to change the state's makeup. Currently, Florida's congressional delegation has 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
"This will result in the exact same congressional makeup," Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemons, told the Tampa Tribune. "How does that deal with the judge's decision?"
He said the changes were merely "window dressing."
In particular, Democrats say Brown's district is still oddly shaped to give it a large concentration of Democratic black voters.
"We're packing individuals into a district while we're bleaching all the other districts," state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat, told the Orlando Sentinel. She said the state needed to get away from a "one-is-enough" mentality when it comes to seats designed to produce minority lawmakers.
The Sentinel reported that three of the seven districts that are shifting become 2 percent or less competitive for Democrats, while four become ever so slightly more competitive.
After Republican Gov. Rick Scott signs the plan, it will be reviewed by Lewis, the judge that ordered the changes. He has set a hearing for Aug. 20 to determine whether to order new election dates. The Sentinel reports that more than 1.2 million early ballots have been mailed in for the August 26 primary, and Republicans argue those voters could be disenfranchised if the election dates are changed.