Florida’s department of state asked election officials Tuesday to be prepared to implement either a court-ordered map or the original map signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“To the extent that it is possible, we ask that you proceed on two fronts and plan to implement both maps,” wrote Brad McVay, general counsel for the Florida Department of State. “At a minimum, as you undertake implementation on [the court-ordered map], you should make sure to preserve any and all work that has already been done towards implementing” the earlier enacted plan.
Second Judicial Circuit Judge J. Layne Smith ordered a new map last week. He said, “the enacted map is unconstitutional because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice.”
The new map maintained a Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee district that experts said would allow Black voters to elect their candidate of choice to Congress, while the enacted map dismantled that district and replaced it with North Florida districts that would favor Republicans.
Smith’s order meant election officials needed to prepare for that court-ordered map.
Then the state appealed Smith’s ruling, which triggered an automatic stay halting Smith’s order and keeping the original enacted map in place. That meant election officials needed to prepare for the enacted map.
Then Smith lifted the stay, saying his original order could remain in effect while the state appeals it. That meant election officials are back to preparing for the court-ordered map.
Now the state has asked the First District Court of Appeal to reinstate the stay, which if granted would mean election officials would go back to preparing for the enacted map while the appeal continues.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to send the appeal straight to the Florida Supreme Court.
The appellate court has not yet ruled, but in the meantime, the state has told county officials to continue preparing for both maps so they’re ready regardless of the final outcome.
Elections offices must notify voters if they are in a new precinct, and many offices are redrawing voting precincts to accommodate the new legislative and congressional maps.
Most counties, including Nassau, aren’t affected by which map is ultimately used. In both the state-enacted map and the court-ordered one, Nassau is entirely in the 4th Congressional District.
But Duval, St. Johns, Leon, Jefferson, Columbia and Marion counties would need to make changes.
St. Johns County’s elections office already redrew precincts. Vicky Oakes, the county’s supervisor of elections, said it won’t need to again redraw precincts.
“Fortunately for us, even under the remedial plan, it happens to follow a lot of our new district lines in terms of precincts,” she said. The county had already prepared the enacted plan, she said, and now just needs to prepare the court-ordered one.
The main work, she said, is preparing the different ballots used by voters, depending on which districts they live in.
Duval is still preparing new precincts for approval by the Jacksonville City Council, and chief elections officer Robert Phillips said that the office was preparing for either map.
The deadline to qualify for office is June 17, and then the primary election takes place Aug. 23. Ballots must be sent to overseas military voters by July 9.