Legislature Given August 15 Deadline to Redraw Congressional Districts

By  | 

BAY COUNTY-- The Florida state legislature is now in a time crunch.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ordered the legislature today to redraw congressional districts after a July ruling that two districts were drawn illegally.

He said some districts violated Florida's anti-gerrymandering amendments, meaning they leaned heavily in favor of one party.

The legislature has until August 15.

With two weeks until deadline, people are concerned about how the change could affect voters and the upcoming general election.

"A Pandora's Box has definitely been cracked open by this," Florida House Representative Jimmy Patronis said.

As the Florida legislature prepares to call a special session to redraw congressional district lines, nearly any outcome is possible.

"It's more of just a wonderful victory for the people that everybody's votes should count the same," Bay Co. League of Women Voters President Cecile Scoon said. "That is a powerful message that every citizen across the state of Florida and across the county should take to heart."

But some say the situation has too many downsides.

"I think the full ramifications of what his opinion could mean are pretty overwhelming," Patronis said.

Patronis says it may not affect District 2 voters directly, but instead by the domino effect.

"Here's the dilemma: New ballots have to be printed. Does that open up re-qualifying? This could affect not just the ten districts immediately around those particular congressional seats, but it could affect every seat in the state," he said.

There's even a chance that the November 4 general election date could be pushed back.

Patronis says this puts pressure on Supervisor of Elections offices to reprint correct ballots and reeducate voters.

"There's a lot of issues that need to be declared: What we're gonna do, how we're gonna do it, when we're gonna start. And what's the real end date of the election?" Bay Co. Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen said.

But until a map exists, we won't know what districts and voters are affected.

Many people say voters should remain the priority.

"I just want somebody to make an opinion and get a conclusion to this and not confuse voters," Andersen said.

"I want the maps to be drawn properly, I want the judge to look over everything and I want the people who were involved in whatever wrongdoing to be held accountable," Scoon said.

Patronis says he hopes if the districts are ultimately redrawn, the new boundaries take affect after this year's election cycle.

Attorneys representing the legislature still have the chance to appeal Judge Lewis' decision.