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Fla. Supreme Court to decide fate of new districts

5th Congressional District before and after Florida Legislature's redistricting in 2014.The Florida Supreme Courtruledon July 9 lawmakers the new map, along with seven other districts in the state, still favors the incumbent.
5th Congressional District before and after Florida Legislature's redistricting in 2014.The Florida Supreme Courtruledon July 9 lawmakers the new map, along with seven other districts in the state, still favors the incumbent.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court announced Thursday it will accept a fast-track appeal of a challenge to the state's congressional districts.

The court issued an order setting oral arguments for March 4, one day after the 2015 legislative session begins. Voting-rights organizations, including the League of Women Voters, challenged the state's congressional map for violating a constitutional ban on political gerrymandering that was approved by voters in 2010.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ordered changes to two districts -- one being District 5 currently held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville -- but ruled against the map's opponents on several others. Lawmakers held a special session in August to redraw the two districts, though voting-rights groups continued to oppose the new map.

A divided 1st District Court of Appeal on Oct. 1 ruled that the challenge should go directly to the Supreme Court, instead of being heard in the appeals court.

In the Supreme Court order issued Thursday, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, James E.C. Perry and Peggy Quince voted to accept the case. Justices Charles Canady and Rick Polston declined.

That mirrors the 5-2 split in a 2012 decision that threw out the initial boundaries lawmakers drew for state Senate districts as part of the same redistricting process.