Florida Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis has rejected the congressional district map proposed by state legislature. Lewis instead gave tentative approval to the version submitted by League of Women Voters, who had campaigned to remove the original map based on political bias concerns.
In his ruling, Lewis said the Legislature had not “met its burden of justifying the proposed versions of Districts 20 through 27,” while the map designed by the challengers showed no such bias, and split the least number of cities and counties.
Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the original map designed by the Legislature unfairly represented eight districts, including four in South Florida. The court issued specific redesign guidelines, but by August the Florida House and Senate failed to reach an agreement. The maps were then resubmitted to Judge Lewis for his decision. The map recommended by Judge Lewis will now advance to the Supreme Court for final decision.
In Broward County, the recommended map merges parts of Congressional District 21 held by Democrat Ted Deutch of Boca Raton with District 22 held by Democratic Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach. District 21 now includes most of Palm Beach County and the new District 22 large sections of north Broward County, Boca Raton and Hillsborough County. Both democrats would face a predicament deciding which district each should run in the 2016 general elections.
In District 20, held by Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings, the recommended map removes parts of Hendry County, but places the left-leaning City of Miramar in his district.
The more significant change affects District 26 in South-West Miami-Dade County, placing the Democrat-leaning City of Homestead in the district currently held by Republican Carlos Curbelo. The map also leaves the Black Democratic communities of Richmond Heights, Palmetto Estates and West Perrine in District 26 – changes which would favor Democratic Candidate Annette Taddeo in 2016.
The change also removes the City of Homestead from District 27, currently held by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which will not likely affect her position.
Attorney for the League of Women Voters, David King hailed the ruling as a “great victory for the people of Florida and for restoration of representative democracy.”
The Florida Legislature commences another special session on October 19 to decide on the redistricting map.