A bill filed Thursday in the Florida Senate would fast-track court rulings in challenges to electoral district boundaries, while requiring current boundaries to be used if the ruling isn’t rendered in a timely fashion.
Senate Bill 352, filed by Elkton Republican Travis Hutson, seeks to resolve uncertainty among candidates and voters alike – a utilitarian measure in the light of high-profile recent challenges to Florida Senate boundaries as well as to those of the United States House of Representatives.
Challenges to boundaries in legislative races must be given an expedited hearing, according to the bill.
If a ruling is not rendered by the 71st day before the primary election in multi-county district races, the election must proceed according to extant boundaries, with any changes taking effect for the next election cycle.
This would not apply to state attorney or public defender races, where the lines are not controversial; rather, to State Senate and State House races.
If a court order mandating change is rendered for a U.S. House of Representatives primary race 116 days before the primary, those candidates must requalify in accordance with the changes.
Additionally, Hutson’s bill has provisions that allow for public oversight in the case of a remedial map from a court, incorporating provisions for public review and commentary, and requiring records to be kept of the process.
“Our districts are the literal building blocks of a successful representative democracy,” said Hutson in a press release.
“The process of creating districts is too important to have uncertainty. This bill clearly sets a framework so all those involved in the electoral process, from the Supervisors of Elections to candidates and most importantly the voters, can be confident that timely and fair elections are held in our state,” Hutson added.
“I am a firm believer that three co-equal branches of government with strong public input and oversight is what our constitution is built upon,” Hutson continued. “This bill ensures transparency and fairness throughout the entire redistricting process.”
The bill has yet to get a Florida House companion bill, but it almost certainly will.