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- 2012 - May - 1st -

Judge allows congressional maps

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

A Leon County judge declined to set aside the state’s new congressional maps Monday, saying opponents of the plans had not proved that the Legislature violated new anti-gerrymandering standards in the once-a-decade redistricting process.

It was the latest in a string of significant victories for GOP leaders in the politically charged battle over the future of the state. The Florida Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Legislature’s second attempt at drawing a map for the state Senate, after justices had tossed an earlier draft, and the U.S. Justice Department told the state Monday that all of its maps had gained preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.

The ruling by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis did not fully settle the issues in the case. His ruling only dealt with a request by lawyers for a coalition of voting rights groups and a group of voters backed by the Florida Democratic Party to throw out the maps based on undisputed facts. Lewis said many of the facts are still in dispute.

He rejected a request by critics of the maps to issue an injunction that would prevent the state from using the new lines until he could rule on the merits of the case.

“Without a finding that the map as drawn is unconstitutional, I do not have the authority to replace it with another map while the case is pending,” Lewis wrote.

The case is the first ruling on congressional map under the Fair Districts constitutional amendments approved by the voters in November 2010.

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