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Saturday, 11 July 2015 00:00

Florida Supreme Court orders new congressional map with eight districts to be redrawn

Written by Mary Ellen Klas | Tampa Bay Times

On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the state's GOP-drawn congressional map and ordered that eight seats need to be redrawn for the 2016 election.

The affected seats are FL-05 (Democrat Corrine Brown), FL-13 (Republican David Jolly), FL-14 (Democrat Kathy Castor), FL-21 (Democrat Ted Deutch), FL-22 (Democrat Lois Frankel), FL-25 (Republican Mario Diaz-Balart), FL-26 (Republican Carlos Curbelo), and FL-27 (Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen). The Republican-led state legislature will be required to redraw these seats and submit them to the court for approval. It's also a good bet that other seats will be changed by the new map. No specific deadline was ordered, but the new maps need to be ready for next year's elections. Democrats are also going after Curbelo in the Miami-area 26th.

The court ruled that the current map violates the Fair District amendment, which prevents lawmakers from drawing districts intended to favor incumbents or parties. The legislature had complete control over redistricting and the court decided that they did not respect the voter-passed law. The ruling only applied to the congressional map, but it's likely we'll see some changes for the Sunshine State's state legislative districts.

It's impossible to know how this will effect the 2016 House elections until we see the new map, but it looks like the GOP will be on the defensive in the swingy St. Petersburg-area 13th District. The GOP deliberately put several heavily African-American seats in the neighboring 14th District, and the court noted this in their ruling. Obama won the current 13th District 50-49 and Democrats were already planning to target Jolly. The congressman has been mulling a Senate bid and if his seat becomes bluer, he may decide to take his chances on a statewide run. The 14th backed the president 65-34, and Castor should be safe even if she ends up with some redder areas.

The GOP may try to appeal the ruling in a federal court but as Rick Hasen points out, they may not get too far. The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld Arizona's independent redistricting commission, which drew the Grand Canyon State's congressional seats without any input from the legislature. Now that the highest court in the land has ruled that voters can place limits on a state legislature's ability to draw the lines, it won't be easy for the Republicans to argue that the state court overstepped their authority.

There are a lot of dominos left to fall here, but Democrats will be happy to see a more fair map put in place. We'll be watching closely as things develop.

12:51 PM PT: The Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith takes an early look at who this decision might benefit, and on balance the news is good for Team Blue.  Head over the fold for more.

Jolly is the Republican most likely to be hurt, but there's a good chance that either John Mica or Daniel Webster's central Florida seats will go from safely red turf to far more competitive territory.

Curbelo is also likely to take in more of Democratic-leaning Homestead, but it may not change this seat dramatically. Obama won the current 26th 53-46, but the GOP still does well downballot. While Rep. Ted Yoho's secure seat isn't likely to be in play for Democrats no matter what, he could draw a challenger if his constituency changes enough. Yoho won his 2012 primary in a complete surprise and he hasn't done much to ingratiate himself with the GOP establishment. An ambitious Republican could try and unseat Yoho if he picks up enough new constituents.

The news isn't all good for Democrats. It's quite possible that Gwen Graham's competitive seat will be turned into something unwinnable for her. Graham could conceivably run for Senate instead, though she wouldn't have an easy time jumpstarting a campaign this quickly. There's also talk of Graham being thrown into the same safely blue seat as Rep. Corrine Brown. South Florida Reps. Ted Deutsch, Alcee Hastings, and Lois Frankel may also see major changes to their seats, and we could see Deutsch and Frankel thrown into the same district.

Link to original article from Tampa Bay Times

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