In case you have been living under a rock, sailing on a Disney cruise or depend on the Sun-Sentinel for your news (more on that later), you know by now that Judge Terry Lewis on Friday ordered legislators to draw up a new congressional map for the state after the old one was ruled to be illegal.
Lewis wants the new map by Aug. 15, meaning that legislators would have to hold a special session over the next two weeks in order to comply with the decision. Lewis said he will then consider whether to order a special election later this year under this new map.
Sunday evening, the Miami Herald‘s Mary Ellen Klas laid out the probable schedule of the special session:
“The plan, to be officially announced on Monday, is to allow most of the legislature return to their districts after they convene, while only those who are members of the House and Senate redistricting committees will stay to work out the details of the revised map. The full House and Senate will then return on Aug. 13 through Aug. 15 to stay until they pass the final map.”
In case you’ree wondering why legislative leaders and others have been so quiet since Friday’s development, here’s one answer:
@WillWeatherford: Looks like I picked an interesting day to have my wisdom teeth pulled out. Good news is I have through most of it.
Weatherford emailed members and staff on Sunday night, essentially saying the Legislature will do what it’s required to do to fix the map, but will fight any effort to impose the map on this cycle’s elections:
“We continue to maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process. Florida’s Supervisors of Elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date. The NAACP also pointed out in their response to Judge Lewis that, “In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist. Voters who face challenges to political participation – be it financial, job scheduling, transportation, or other impediments – will be irreparably harmed by conducting the election at a time where that infrastructure does not exist.”
“Tens of thousands of our service men and women overseas have received their ballots, and over one million absentee ballots have been mailed to Floridians. Members, we intend to vigorously defend the integrity and validity of Floridians’ votes that have already been and will be cast in the upcoming election.”
Weatherford’s partner in the Florida Senate, Don Gaetz, wrote to members on Friday night, instructing them to not delete any documents or files relevant to redistricting:
“In a memorandum distributed Friday evening, Gaetz instructs all members and staff to ‘keep and do not delete any and all records related to the enactment of new congressional districts, including copies of unfiled draft maps, unfiled draft bills and amendments, correspondence, emails, texts and other electronic communications related to the enactment of new congressional districts, whether sent or received on official Senate accounts or devices or personal email accounts or devices.’ ”
While lawmakers are remaining quiet about their plans, so too is the consultant class, which was exposed during the redistricting trial as having an outsized influence on the reapportionment process. One prominent Republican consultant responded via text to me asking what they were hearing, “I’ve honestly avoided it on purpose. Don’t want to be deposed.”
So, what will happen once lawmakers are gaveled into special session?
One uber-smart operative predicted that lawmakers will dust off HOOOC9043, which looks like the current map, but fixes the “appendage” issue in northeast Florida that Judge Lewis focused on in his final judgment.
Map 9043 may solve the map issue, but what about the electioneering issues? It is SO important to recognize that Lewis’ order is really two matters. The first is, fix the map. The second part is, once the map is fixed, then he’ll decide about when to implement said map. Lewis could sign-off on the remedial map and then punt it to special elections, which would occur after the Nov. 4 general election.
If special elections are indeed held then, they should “be conducted as all-mail ballot elections,” says Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, one of the best in the business. All mail elections “would have a lesser impact on local elections, and be more feasible for elections administration.”
This is especially advantageous, Ertel says, if the special elections are conducted after the Nov. 4 general and before the seating of the 114th Congress on January 3. “(I)n Seminole County, 56 percent of our polling locations are in houses of worship, and thus are likely to not be available as polling locations for any December election.”
Meanwhile, if you are looking for a strong opinion about this whole affair, be sure to read consultant Jamie Miller’s takedown on Context Florida of the League of Women Voters.
Oh, and about that shot at the Sun Sentinel … on Saturday, it was the only major newspaper in the state not to front-page the redistricting story. Yet another front-page fail from the Sun Sentinel.