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Maps come in for congressional redistricting challenge

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will have at least seven proposed maps to sort out as he determines the best way to fix Florida’s congressional district boundaries.

As of Tuesday, those maps include the House’s original “base map,” unchanged since last month’s Special Session, and two from the Senate, one of which puts the southern flank of eastern Hillsborough County back into the 16th Congressional District, now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Still others, including those submitted by the League of Women Voters of Florida, reconfigure a string of South Florida districts, which could affect sitting members of Congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, also Republicans.

Another group of plaintiffs submitted a map that they admitted was drawn with the help of “staff members from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”

The maps were due Tuesday as part of an ongoing case involving the Florida Supreme Court’s previous finding that the current lines were gerrymandered against the state Constitution; that is, they were drawn to benefit Republican candidates.

Lewis soon will have to pick a map or, perhaps more likely, play jigsaw puzzle with bits of different maps to come up with a final version that passes constitutional muster.

A final hearing is set to begin Sept. 24.

The high court already has told Lewis to “make a recommendation to (this) Court … as to which map proposed by the parties – or which portions of each map – best fulfills the specific directions (of) the Court … and all constitutional requirements.”

The Supreme Court also made clear that its decision will be final and binding.

“The Court notes that the judiciary sometimes must adopt a redistricting plan when the Legislature fails or is unable to do so, as previously occurred in Florida in 1992,” the court’s order said.

The Supreme Court threw out the current map after a two-year-long court challenge. Lawmakers then failed to agree on a new map after convening in a two-week Special Session last month.

The court handed the case back to Lewis, giving 100 days to come up with a solution. That time runs out in mid-October.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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