Judge orders legislature to redraw Florida congressional map

A Florida judge has ordered the state legislature to hold a special session by Aug. 15 to redraw its congressional lines, throwing House races this fall into chaos. 

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, who decided last month the map couldn't stand as is, specifically pointed to Rep. Corinne Brown's (D) Jacksonville-based 5th District and Rep. Daniel Webster's (R) Orlando-based 10th District. That means that both those districts will have to be changed, alterations that could reverberate across North Florida and give Democrats new opportunities to pick up House seats.

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Lewis also suggested that new district elections may not be feasible by Election Day, meaning there may have to be special elections soon after November. 

"There is just no way, legally or logistically, to put in place a new map, amend the various deadlines and have elections on November 4th as prescribed by Federal law," Lewis writes. "It might be possible to push the general election date back to allow for a special election in 2014 for any affected districts."

That judge had already ruled some of the state's congressional districts are unconstitutional and must be redrawn, and the big question was whether that would happen before this election or not until 2016. 

The state in recent years passed into law aimed at undercutting partisan gerrymandering, and the map Republicans drew was facing a challenge under the legal lines. A new map before this election could give Democrats new opportunities to pick up House seats.

The state legislature now has two weeks to come up with a new map, one that will likely shed Democratic voters in Brown's ungainly Jacksonville-to-Orlando district into neighboring areas. 

Webster, Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.), Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and others could all potentially see line changes that could put them in much tougher races, though the GOP-controlled state legislature that's in charge of the new lines will likely seek to do as little damage as possible to their incumbents' chances. 

The decision could also force a number of districts to reopen election filing, which might give Democrats another crack at finding a candidate to challenge freshman Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), though it's unclear whether his district will be touched.

"It's pretty clear Democrats are going to benefit. How much is the question," said one Florida Democrat who's been closely following the case.

This post was updated at 1:18 p.m. 

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