Florida judge scraps part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ redistricting map
Posted on May 12, 2022
A Florida judge blocked Gov. Ron DeSantis’s redistricting map Wednesday, ruling it discriminated against Black voters in the northern part of the state.
After a three-hour hearing, Circuit Judge Layne Smith decided, with an order that could come as early as Thursday, to block the redrawn map around Jacksonville.
“The enacted map is unconstitutional under the Fair District Amendment,” Smith said. “It diminishes African-Americans’ ability to elect the representative of their choice.”
Last month, DeSantis signed into law a bill to redraw congressional boundaries for two districts and force two Black members of Congress to lose their seats.
The new map impacted Florida’s Fifth Congressional District and divided Jacksonville, a city with the state’s largest Black population, into two Republican-leaning districts. In all, 370,000 Black voters would be spread across four Republican-leaning North Florida districts.
“I do find persuasive the arguments that were made about the diminishment of African-American votes ... to the other districts where they’re now spreading,” Judge Smith said.
John Devaney, who argued the plaintiff’s case for the Florida League of Women Voters and three minority advocacy organizations, said it was vital for Judge Smith to stop the plan now.
“Once an election occurs, there’s no do-over,” Devaney said. “The harm is done. The only way to protect against that harm is to assure that a constitutional voting map is put in place before the election actually occurs.”
County elections supervisors in Florida want the redistricting map finalized by the end of May to reconfigure precincts. Federal candidate qualifying for congressional seats is scheduled June 13 to 17.
Litigation on the boundaries is expected to continue and could be decided by Florida’s state Supreme Court.
By deciding to issue the order Thursday, Judge Smith wanted to give Florida’s top elections official, appointed by DeSantis, enough time to appeal.
“As Judge Smith implied, these complex constitutional matters of law were always going to be decided at the appellate level,” said Taryn Fenske, a DeSantis spokeswoman.
“We will undoubtedly be appealing his ruling and are confident the constitutional map enacted by the Florida Legislature and signed into law passes legal muster.”
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