By: Andrew Wiggins, Senior Director of Campaigns and Elections
Today, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a lower court to hold a hearing in the ongoing legal case involving Florida’s congressional redistricting conundrum.
The ruling came after a request from Leon Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis for the Florida Supreme Court to provide further direction after the Florida Legislature was unable to agree on a congressional district map during a special session last month. Upon the conclusion of that special session, both chambers sent their maps to Judge Lewis.
Under today’s ruling, the House and Senate will now present arguments in support of or in opposition to the proposed map plans. The burden remains on the House and Senate to justify their own configurations. The trial court subsequently will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court by October 17, as to which map or portions of each map best meets the requirements set by the Supreme Court in its July 9, 2015 opinion ordering new maps to be drawn.
However, in today’s ruling, the Supreme Court offered the opportunity for lawmakers to reconvene and pass new congressional maps, which would then go to the lower court for approval.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merrit Island, said: “Today the court provided a measure of certainty for how we may go forward to adopt a constitutional congressional map, as the voters expect from us. We look forward to further reviewing the order to determine our next steps.”
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the Senate remains open to holding another special session on redistricting.
“The Supreme Court declined the plaintiffs’ request that it draw the congressional map and recognizes that the Legislature still has time to enact a unified congressional plan. This decision has not precluded the opportunity for the House and Senate to draw a map, and each chamber should take advantage of the ample time to address the differences between our respective plans. As we have expressed since the conclusion of the special session, the Senate is willing to reconvene to fulfill our constitutional obligation.”
Also today, the Supreme Court denied the League of Women Voters request to terminate the legislature’s role in redistricting and allow the court to draw its own map. The court ruled congressional redistricting falls first and foremost upon the legislature.
In August, the Florida Legislature was tasked with redrawing Florida’s 27 Congressional Districts after the Florida Supreme Court ruled eight districts unconstitutional. A resulting base map made changes to 22 of Florida’s 27 districts – touching most of the state. The two-week session ended without agreement between the two chambers. With no map in hand, lawmakers went to lower court Judge Lewis who sought an opinion from the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Chamber will continue to keep you up to date with the latest.