Florida Has To Redraw Its Congressional Districts Because, Florida

A state judge ordered Florida to redraw its congressional districts Thursday after he found them to be gerrymandered.

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Elections in the Sunshine State are never easy.

A Florida judge threw out the state's congressional district map on Thursday because two districts were drawn in a partisan manner that violated the state constitution.

Judge Terry Lewis said that Florida's 5th Congressional District, a long gerrymandered strip that runs from Jacksonville to Orlando (with a detour to grab student voters in Gainesville), as well as Florida's 10th Congressional District, which grabs much of suburban Orlando were both drawn in violation of the Fair Districts Amendment to the Florida Constitution, which was approved by voters in 2010.

Lewis said the two districts were unnecessarily gerrymandered to protect the respective incumbents, Democrat Corrine Brown in the 5th and Republican Daniel Webster in the 10th. Lewis criticized the Republican dominated Florida legislature for approving the new maps in a partisan manner. In his opinion, the state judge wrote that he found "Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process."

The grounds for finding flaws in the two districts were different. Lewis found the 5th Congressional District was intentionally drawn to pack as many Democratic voters as possible in order to improve Republican performance in neighboring districts. In contrast, the 10th, while originally drawn in accordance with the state's laws, was modified late in the process for partisan advantage.

The opinion will be appealed to the State Supreme Court but, if upheld, it has the potential to force the state legislature to redraw the state's entire congressional map before November. If so, in a state that has 27 seats in the House of Represenatives, it has the potential to create political turmoil and open up additional opportunities for Democrats to grab seats in a state that has voted for Barack Obama twice.