Judge orders overhaul of Florida's congressional districts - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Judge orders overhaul of Florida's congressional districts

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge called Friday for a sweeping overhaul of the state's 27 congressional districts, including the one held by a candidate seeking to become the next U.S. House speaker.

Judge Terry Lewis recommended the new congressional map, which would make it nearly impossible for U.S. Rep. Dan Webster to win re-election from his current central Florida district.

Lewis's ruling also could lead to the ouster of U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham from her north Florida seat while resurrecting the political career of former Gov. Charlie Crist. Lewis also went along with a proposal that would make it harder for South Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo to get re-elected.

Voters in 2010 approved the "Fair Districts" standards that mandate legislators cannot draw districts intended to help incumbents or a member of a political party. Then, in a stinging ruling in July, the Florida Supreme Court said Republican operatives had "tainted" previous efforts to draw up and maps and ordered that eight districts be redrawn. The House and Senate during a rare August special session deadlocked over a new map drawn up by legislative staff.

The high court then asked Lewis to recommend a map. Justices must now decide whether to accept or reject Lewis's proposal.

Lewis held a three-day trial last month, during which he sorted through rival map proposals given to him by the GOP-controlled Legislature as well as from the groups that sued over the current districts.

In his ruling, Lewis sided with one of the maps given to him by a coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters of Florida.

That proposal was similar to a map prepared by legislative map-drawers, but it handles several South Florida districts differently. Lawyers for the coalition had argued that legislative proposals appeared aimed at helping Curbelo, a Republican. Legislative lawyers strongly denied the allegation.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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