A judge in a federal court case says any alternative congressional maps plaintiffs want considered must come in by Monday. That’s a day before a Special Session begins where the Florida Legislature expects to pass a new map.
Meanwhile, a trial has been set for May 12 and 13 to determine if any map produced through the normal legislative process is legally acceptable, assuming one even emerges. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a plan approved by the Legislature during the regular Session.
Florida remains one of just three states where political boundaries are not yet approved for the 2022 midterms.
U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, in an order denying a request from Secretary of State Laurel Lee to pause the case, laid out a timeline for the federal proceedings. The first major deadline comes Monday, when plaintiffs and any intervenors in the lawsuit against the state must offer alternatives to the official state plan. Along with proposed maps, any supporting expert reports, affidavits, declarations and other submitted evidence supporting the case must also be turned in.
Notably, that’s a day before a Special Session begins to pass a new official map. Leaders of the Florida Senate and House on Monday announced they intend to defer to DeSantis on cartography. Counsel for DeSantis will present and make the case for a new map. The Special Session is scheduled to end on Friday at noon at the latest.
Lee’s office must submit the official map to federal court no later than April 26.
The federal case was brought forward by Common Cause Florida and Fair Districts Now.
Common Cause lawyers made clear during status hearings that plaintiffs will likely offer a map approved by the Florida Senate (S 8060) for consideration. That map won bipartisan approval in the upper chamber through a 31-4 vote. But the map was never considered by the House.
The lower chamber approved its own map (H 8019) independently. After the Governor made clear he would veto that, the Senate still took up the map and passed it without going to conference.
Besides submissions from plaintiffs, the courts expect a submission from the Democracy Docket, a group headed by national redistricting attorney Marc Elias. He represented parties in a state case that was voluntarily dismissed on Monday, and filed as intervenors in the federal case.
Elections officials in the state asked for maps to be finalized as soon as possible. The Polk County Supervisor of Elections, in a federal court filing earlier this month, said she would like maps set by April 29.
She needs them ready by May 13 at the latest in order to prepare for the August Primary Election. That’s the day Judge Jordan anticipates a trial will end.
Depositions with most experts must be taken May 3 and 4, according to Jordan’s order. An eight-hour deposition for an expert provided on behalf of the state will take place May 5.
DeSantis’ veto of the Legislature’s map came despite the House trying to address concerns from DeSantis about whether a North Florida district was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The House reshaped Florida’s 5th Congressional District as a Duval County-only seat, but included a backup map (H 8015) in its redistricting bill that preserved a Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville configuration.
It’s unclear whether either House version will be submitted for consideration by the courts.
It’s also unknown what DeSantis’ Office will offer for the Legislature to consider during the Legislative Session. Counsel for DeSantis submitted two maps (P 0079 and P 0094) during the regular Session, neither of which was taken up by the Legislature.
The latest DeSantis map had 20 districts won by Republican Donald Trump in the last presidential election and eight won by Democrat Joe Biden. The map he vetoed has 18 Trump districts and 10 Biden ones. The Senate map had 16 Trump districts and 12 Biden jurisdictions. Trump won the state in 2020 by three percentage points.