Florida judge blocks DeSantis redistricting map that would affect black voters

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Topline

A Florida judge said Wednesday he would reject a Congressional map backed by Gov. Ron Desantis (R-Fla.), arguing the map violated the state constitution by dissolving a district with a large black population — the last redistricting battle at the state level this year.

Highlights

During a hearing, Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith, who was appointed by DeSantis two years ago, said he would issue an injunction later this week blocking part of the redistricting map , siding with polling groups that have sued state officials.

Smith said the new map goes against the Fair Districts Amendments to Florida’s constitution because it dismantles North Florida’s 5th congressional district, where black residents make up more than 40% of the population. , a decision that “diminishes the ability of African Americans to elect the representative of their choice.

The judge said he would not order the state legislature back in session to design a new map, and would likely enact one of the maps previously passed by lawmakers but rejected by DeSantis, notes the Associated Press.

State officials have argued that the long, narrow congressional district — which is represented by Rep. Al Lawson (D) — has been redesigned because it’s not particularly compact, spanning more than 150 miles from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

To monitor

DeSantis communications director Taryn Fenske said Forbes On Wednesday, the state will appeal Smith’s decision to a higher court and is “confident that the constitutional map enacted by the Florida Legislature and enacted into law passes legal scrutiny.” The case will then head to a state appeals court and could eventually reach the conservative-leaning Florida Supreme Court.

Key Context

Florida lawmakers and DeSantis approved a congressional redistricting plan last month, following a back-and-forth between the legislature and DeSantis’ office. The state legislature’s original plan was vetoed by DeSantis in March, leading the governor’s staff to step in and propose the map that was eventually passed and signed into law. The map gives Republicans an advantage in most of the state’s 28 congressional seats and divides Lawson’s 5th District into several Republican-leaning districts. DeSantis argued the redistricting plan eliminated a racist 5th District, but the decision sparked a legal challenge from voting groups who said the map favored Republicans and reduced the power of black voters.

Tangent

State officials across the country are working to redraw the maps of Congress this year in line with new U.S. Census data, a process that could impact the balance of power in the House over the next decade. In several states, the process has resulted in lawsuits. A New York judge shut down the new state map in late March, arguing that Democrats had been manipulated to undermine Republicans’ power. Meanwhile, a North Carolina judge threw out a Republican-drawn map, and the Supreme Court later upheld a new court-approved map.

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