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Fla. lawmakers ordered to draw new voting map

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida judge on Friday ordered legislators to draw up a new congressional map for the state after the old one was ruled to be illegal.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis wants the new map by Aug. 15, meaning that legislators would have to hold a special session to comply. Lewis said he will then consider whether to order a special election later this year under this new map.

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Lewis in July ruled that the current districts are illegal because they were drawn to benefit the Republican Party. Lewis’s July ruling sparked a legal battle over what to do since Florida’s primary election is scheduled for Aug. 26.

A coalition of groups that challenged the current districts had asked Lewis to adopt a new map and adjust this year’s election schedule. But legislative leaders said the state’s current districts should be kept in place to avoid disrupting the 2014 elections. They also contended only the Legislature has the authority to draw new districts.

In his ruling, Lewis said he found the arguments from legislative lawyers ‘‘more sensible’’ and agreed that the Legislature should be responsible for the new map.

But he said he could not push off a new map until 2016, to do so would be telling voters ‘‘they have been deprived of the equal right of having a say in who represents their interests in Congress for two years.’’

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