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Florida's current congressional map
In a major decision that came out late Thursday evening, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis threw out Florida's congressional map, ruling that lawmakers violated the state's new "Fair Districts" amendments when they crafted new lines in 2012. (The full opinion is here.) Lewis said that legislators impermissibly sought to protect incumbents, in direction contravention of the amendments, which voters approved by a wide margin in 2010.

In fact, Lewis was absolutely scathing in his assessment of how Republicans handled their responsibilities:

What is clear to me from the evidence, as described in more detail below, is that this group of Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process. They accomplished this by writing scripts for and organizing groups of people to attend the public hearings to advocate for adoption of certain components or characteristics in the maps, and by submitting maps and partial maps through the public process, all with the intention of obtaining enacted maps for the State House and Senate and for Congress that would favor the Republican Party.

They made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process, utilizing the access it gave them to the decision makers, but going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it. They were successful in their efforts to influence the redistricting process and the congressional plan under review here. And they might have successfully concealed their scheme and their actions from the public had it not been for the Plaintiffs' determined efforts to uncover it in this case.

Lewis added that while the actual legislative staff members who were responsible for drawing the maps may have been unaware of this conspiracy, these consultants found "other ways to infiltrate and influence the Legislature." In so doing, they "managed to taint the redistricting process and the resulting map with improper partisan intent," thus requiring the map to be discarded.

Lewis specifically ruled that the 5th Congressional District (held by Democrat Corrine Brown) and the 10th (held by Republican Dan Webster) have to be redrawn. That will create a ripple effect affecting adjacent districts, and Democrats are very likely to benefit, because Brown's district deliberately packs black voters into a hideous snake-like monstrosity stretching from Jacksonville to Orlando. (You can't miss it on the map embedded above.)

If the 5th is dismantled, it would unpack Democratic voters into more marginal Republican districts, potentially making them more competitive. Webster's 10th, meanwhile, wraps around the head of the 5th District serpent and would also likely become bluer with any redraw.

But we're probably still a while away from that yet, and we may not see any changes until 2016. Appeals are all but certain, and it's not even clear whether the legislature or the courts will craft a new map, if one is ultimately required. Given Lewis' dim view of how lawmakers performed their duties the first time around, he may well be inclined to take the cartographer's pen out of their hands, if it's up to him. Stay tuned, though, because there's undoubtedly plenty more to come.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Jul 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by North & Central Florida Kossacks and Daily Kos.

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