According to lawyers for the Florida State Department, keeping a congressional district where blacks perform resembles “political apartheid.”
Two days after Circuit Judge Layne Smith lifted a stay on its decision to replace Florida’s new congressional map, the state wants the decision put on hold again. Lawyer Mohammad Jazil filed a 67-page motion Wednesday morning asking the 1st District Court of Appeals to stick with mapping sign by the governor Ron DeSantis. The courts have asked supporters of the challenge to respond to the motion by noon Thursday.
Jazil’s brief leans heavily on the idea that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately favor the map designed by DeSantis staff precisely because it dismantles a North Florida district that officials say has been erroneously drawn with race as the primary motivator.
“A congressional district map drawn on the basis of race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment unless it can satisfy rigorous scrutiny,” Jazil wrote in the brief.
The state argues that there is no compelling reason for race to determine the political boundaries of the District of North Florida, but a replacement card submitted to Smith’s court by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabeici does exactly that.
Ansolabehere’s map retains a similar layout for Florida’s 5th congressional district, now represented by the black Democrat of Tallahassee Al Lawson. The outbound map was first implemented by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015.
There are few arguments about the race to compose CD 5. dispute the Governor’s card argue the Fair Districts Amendment to the Florida Constitution prohibits diminishing the ability of black voters to elect a congressional representative of their choice. Expert testimony cited the historical presence of slave plantations in the area of North Florida encompassed by the district. The district spans approximately 200 miles and covers the Florida A&M University campus, western Jacksonville, and Florida’s only majority black county, Gadsden County.
The DeSantis card (P0109), by comparison, distributes about 370,000 black North Florida residents into four majority-white districts.
DeSantis argued there was no compelling reason to attract a district stretching from Tallahassee to Jacksonville that isn’t even majority black.
Lawson’s seat has a 49% black population, and Smith in his decision noted by combining black voters with other minorities, this makes the seat a majority-minority district. He ordered that the Ansolabehere map be used in 2022 instead, and also ordered that the replacement map remain in place during the appeals process so that it can govern election planning until a Court of Appeal decides otherwise.
“The automatic suspension rule is based on respecting government decisions at the planning level. The issue here is the legislature’s compliance with the state constitution – not some mundane executive branch planning decision! Smith wrote in an order lifting an automatic stay on appeal. “So the Secretary of State has no deference.”
Jazil argued for the state that judges should implement a stay when considering their next decision. He argued that the map of Ansolabehere was drawn too hastily and contained several errors of adjacency in the borders.
But fundamentally, he leaned heavily on the argument that any racial gerrymander in a district cannot stand up to scrutiny once the language of the US Constitution is taken into account. “The court order deviates from the binding precedent of the United States Supreme Court,” he wrote.
Jazil pointed to a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding North Carolina‘s redistricting plan that he says proves his point. A majority in the case (Shaw vs. Reno) ruled that the redistricting plan violated voters’ right to “color-blind” redistribution. Jazil drew a particular line from the decision in the conclusion of his memoir which pointed to a “redistributive plan which includes in one district individuals belonging to the same race, but who are otherwise widely separated by geographical and political boundaries, and who may have little in common with each other, but the color of their skin, uncomfortably resembles political apartheid.
That same logic applies to the Lawson district that Smith wants to preserve, Jazil argued.
“The Circuit Court apparently forgot that the U.S. Constitution considers sorting based on race to be ‘abhorrent,'” Jazil wrote.
The argument notably comes a day after Secretary of State Byrd cord took office following the resignation of former Secretary of State Laura Lee. As a state representative, Byrd voted against Legislatively approved maps seeking to retain a black seat in North Florida. DeSantis vetoed these maps, and the Legislature adopted one drawn by the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff in special session.
Byrd de la Salle made a similar argument against maintaining a black entertainment district in North Florida.
It should be noted that Smith’s decision and the Ansolabehere map only address arguments regarding North Florida. The legal challenge, filed by Black Voters Matter and other plaintiffs, raised concerns for Fair Districts about the entire map, but sought to focus on Lawson’s seat in terms of actions before the mid- course of 2022. A lawsuit will address the arguments against the entire map in a trial process that could last for years.
The plaintiffs suggested in a motion last week that the appeals court should certify the Smith decision and expedite the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court. Lawyers challenging the map asked for until Thursday to fully respond to the state’s request, but reiterated in a response that all decisions in the case must be heard and decided quickly by the High Court.
“A final Supreme Court decision is much more urgent here given the upcoming primary and general elections and the need for Florida supervisors to finalize their election plans,” reads a brief filed by Frederick Wermuth for complainants.
If the appeals judges grant a stay on Smith’s ruling, it could affect whether the issue is resolved in time to affect the election this year.
Election officials have suggested in court rulings that they need new lines in place before the end of this month, and that implementing a new map even now could incur staff and staff costs. high logistics so that everything is ready for the August 23 primary.
“At this point, no matter how quickly this Court’s review of the vacuum stay order in this Court would severely limit, if not prevent, the Supreme Court from making a final decision on an injunction guaranteeing fundamental constitutional rights. in time for the 2022 election,” Wermuth wrote.
A court order requires plaintiffs to file their briefs by noon. The appeals court’s order requests that the next brief specifically address how an injunction on the map “preserved the status quo.” It’s a view that some legal experts have interpreted as skepticism of Smith’s order, which called for the use of an entirely new map.
Congressional candidates can begin qualifying for the ballot on June 13 and must qualify by noon on June 17.