Florida’s Republican-led Legislature must create a new congressional map after a judge ruled over the weekend that the congressional districts that were redrawn by Governor Ron DeSantis in the northern part of the state are against Florida’s constitution.
The ruling, issued by Judge J. Lee Marsh, was a huge rebuke for the Republican governor. DeSantis had already vetoed attempts the state Legislature made to redraw congressional maps in the state. Instead, he pushed those lawmakers to approve a map that he drew, which did away with a seat in North Florida that was held by state Democratic Representative Al Lawson, who is Black.
In his ruling, though, Marsh fought back against DeSantis’ actions, writing:
“Plaintiffs have shown that the Enacted Plan results in the diminishment of Black voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution.”
Marsh cited the Fair Districts Amendment, a section of the state constitution that says congressional districts can’t be redrawn if they “diminish” the ability of minority voters to elect who they want to represent them.
Since the new map DeSantis pushed completely did away with the district Lawson represented, Black towns that were located as far as west of Tallahassee ended up being linked to Jacksonville.
The state has already said that it will appeal this ruling up to Florida’s Supreme Court, Secretary of State Cory Byrd told Politico in a text message.
Various groups filed a lawsuit to prevent DeSantis’ congressional maps from going into effect, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Rising, Equal Ground and Black Voters Matter.
The lawsuit was first filed last April, once those congressional maps were signed into law by DeSantis.
The group that initiated the suit is called the National Redistricting Foundation. Its director of litigation and policy, Olivia Mendoza, recently commented on the ruling:
“This is a significant victory in the fight for fair representation for Black Floridians. As a result, the current discriminatory map should be replaced with a map that restores the Fifth Congressional District in a manner that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.”
She further added that the governor “pushed for the discriminatory map that targeted Black voters with precision.”
In 2022, Florida gained another congressional district because of its population growth. That gave the state 28 total districts.
Last year, the state Legislature enacted congressional maps that ultimately would have benefited the GOP in 16 of the districts.
Those maps were vetoed by DeSantis, though, and the governor convinced state lawmakers to enact a map he drew. That map would’ve made it easier for Republicans to capture up to 20 of those seats easier than before.
In fact, some national Republicans have given DeSantis some credit with helping their party gain the slim majority they currently have in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Following the ruling, Lawson issued a statement that said he was happy with how it went, but that he hasn’t committed to what his future might be. He said:
“My only goal right now is to ensure that fair representation is returned to the people of North Florida.”