WEST PALM BEACH, July 11, 2014 — Judge Terry Lewis reprimanded Florida’s Republican Party yesterday, saying the GOP intentionally drew congressional districts to allow the party to retain power.
The Judge has ordered that the state redraw the districts.
Lewis made the decision after a 12-day trial, where plaintiffs argued that the Republican Party drew the boundaries using party consultants who intentionally wanted to favor the Republicans.
The process, known as gerrymandering, was made illegal under the Fair Districts amendment adopted in 2010. That amendment prohibits parties from drawing districts specifically to favor individual parties.
The 41-page ruling by the Judge in Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit states that the party employed political supporters to create maps that would favor the party.
In his ruling, Lewis said legislators made “a mockery” of the process. He also slammed the Party for deleting emails related to the case, even though it knew a lawsuit was pending.
Legislative leaders of Florida’s Republican Party had argued that they did nothing wrong, and that the districts were fair.
Lewis did not say all the districts mentioned in the suit were unconstitutional. However, he specifically cited the district currently held by Rep. Corinne Brown, a Democrat, and the one held by Dan Webster, a Republican, as violating the constitution of the state.
The presence of two unconstitutional districts, according to Lewis, makes the entire congressional map invalid.
Lewis, who has served on the Circuit Court since 1998, is no stranger to controversy. On November 17, 2000, Lewis ruled that then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris acted appropriately in not including recounted ballots in her final decision for Florida’s presidential tally. That ruling gave Florida’s electoral votes to George W. Bush.
Before that ruling, Lewis was known for overturning the law requiring parents of minors to be notifed 48 hours before their daughter has an abortion. In that ruling, Lewis noted, “not every minor comes from a Norman Rockwell family. Some have problems with abuse if their parents are consulted.”
Inside the state, Lewis is known as fair and impartial, and outside of the political fray.
The current ruling could significantly alter the composition of Florida’s Congress, but it probably will not impact the November 2014 elections, as the GOP is expected to appeal.
Republicans currently are a majority in Florida’s Congress, holding a 17 to 10 majority. Republicans have also won the last four gubernatorial races. The State backed President Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections, although the State’s electoral votes went to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
According to the Florida Division of Elections, the State currently has 11,730,001 registered voters. 4,128,098 are registered as Republicans, 4,587,502 are registered as Democrats, 346,078 belong to a ‘Minor’ party, and 2,677,323 have no party affiliation.