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Lawmaker seeks to speed up redistricting cases

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After long-running legal battles in recent years about state Senate and congressional districts, a Republican lawmaker filed a proposal Thursday that could speed up redistricting court cases and set new guidelines for determining which districts would be used when disputes are pending.

The bill (SB 352), filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, would require that state courts "set an immediate hearing, giving the case priority over other pending cases, and render a decision as expeditiously as possible" when the validity of legislative or congressional districts are challenged.

Also, the bill includes guidelines that, for example, would address situations in which legal challenges are pending at the time of candidate qualifying.

In such situations for most state races, the bill would require elections to move forward using the districts in place on the 71st day before the primary elections.

Revisions to districts ordered after the 71st day would take effect with the next election cycle.

The bill comes after voting-rights groups successfully challenged state Senate and congressional districts under the "Fair Districts" anti-gerrymandering standards approved by voters in 2010.

The challenges, which led to lengthy legal fights, forced the redrawing of districts for the 2016 elections.

Hutson's bill is filed for the legislative session that starts March 7.