On Friday, a Florida judge issued an order that says the state’s current gerrymandered congressional maps may not be used in this year’s election and that elections might be delayed in some parts of the state.
This comes after a ruling last month by a Florida trial court saying the state’s current congressional district map violate the state’s constitution. In 2012, 17 of the 27 seats Florida has in the US House were won by Republicans, even though Democrat Barack Obama won the state in the presidential election.
In his original order, Judge Terry Lewis said that two districts were drawn in such a way that a block of four districts went “from being four Democratic performing or leaning seats in early maps … to two Democratic and two Republican performing seats in the enacted map.”
Lewis’s order on Friday requires the state legislature to “submit a remedial or revised map no later than noon on August 15, 2014.” He also notes that “there is authority that both justifies pushing back the November 4th election date and suggests that logistically, it can be done. Under the circumstances before me, I believe that the law requires that I at least consider the possibility.”
The authority to which Lewis refers is a 1982 case in which Georgia congressional elections were delayed after it was ruled that two congressional districts violated the Voting Rights Act.
Top Republicans in Florida have said that they will not appeal the original order that renders the map unconstitutional, they have, of course, asked Lewis to delay the map’s redrawing until after the November election. After their success with the illegally-drawn districts in 2012, the GOP was hoping to squeeze all that it could out of them before they were fixed.
Lewis’s declaration of the districts as unconstitutional serves as an important precedent in cases like these. So far, the conservative-controlled US Supreme Court has refused to allow federal courts to take restricting cases because they claim they can’t identify a “manageable standard” that judges can use in their rulings. This case proves that standards do exist, and can be applied, to gerrymandering cases.