Last month, you may recall, a Florida judge declared unconstitutional the comically gerrymandered congressional districts created by Republicans in the Legislature, ruling that they blatantly violated an amendment the state's voters had overwhelmingly approved in 2010.
In a scathing opinion, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis ruled in Tallahassee that the Legislature's Republican political consultants had "made a mockery" of the redistricting process, tainting it with "partisan intent."
Lewis said that the districts, drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2010 census, flouted voter-passed constitutional amendments intended to eliminate gerrymandering — that is, often-bizarre and irregular lines that make a district safe for one party or the other.
Gerrymandering "has been criticized as allowing, in effect, the representatives to choose their voters instead of vice versa," he wrote.
Specifically, Lewis found that congressional districts 5 and 10 had been drawn to favor the GOP, and that neighboring districts had been affected as well. Those two districts, and any others affected, will need to be redrawn, he said.
District 5, of course, is the sprawling slice of weirdness that stretches from Jacksonville all the way down to Orlando, snagging black communities along the way (and thus making the adjoining Republican districts safer, which is the whole point). It belongs to Corrine Brown, GOP foot soldier. And she was none too thrilled about Lewis’ ruling: "Minority communities do not live in compact, cookie-cutter-like neighborhoods, and excessive adherence to district ‘compactness,' while ignoring the maintenance of minority access districts, fragments minority communities across the state," she raged.
The Legislature decided not to appeal, for that would only be more embarrasing. Instead it asked Lewis to let the districts stand until after the November election.
Today, he said no.
A Florida judge ordered the state Legislature on Friday to submit a redrawn congressional map within two weeks to replace ones for two districts that were ruled illegal.
In the ruling, Judge Terry P. Lewis of Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit held open the possibility of delaying the November elections.
Judge Lewis said that lawmakers must submit the revised map by Aug. 15 and that the state should also propose a new special election schedule because the changes would affect this year’s elections.
He said the revised maps were needed to decide whether to delay November’s elections in the affected districts. “Time is of the essence,” he wrote.
“Until we have a map in place, and we know what districts are affected,” he wrote, “it is difficult, if not impossible to evaluate whether an election with altered district lines in those affected districts is feasible prior to the new Congress taking office in January 2015.”
So, basically, the Republicans FUBARed the November elections.
Anyway, Corrine Brown is not happy.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown said the ruling “is certainly not in the best interests of Florida voters,” and argued only the governor, not a judge, has authority to convene a special session.
In an emailed statement, Brown said the existing district lines “were already approved in a bipartisan fashion in the state legislature, and were only approved after numerous statewide hearings.”
She restated earlier arguments that the case Lewis ruled on was “part of a bigger movement” to curb minority represented congressional districts.
Yeah, no. Sorry, Corrine, but it’s the opposite of that. By cramming just about every African-American north of Orlando into one district, the Republicans may have made your biannual victory assured, but they’ve made your constituents politically unimportant. Republicans don’t have to worry about them. And, quite frankly, the fact that you never have any serious competition doesn’t make you a better or more responsive representative, either.
And besides, Corrine, it’s not like you’re going to lose. You just might have to work at it a little bit.