A Florida redistricting plan pushed by Ron DeSantis is a direct violation of the state constitution, a judge has ruled — based on the belief that it diminishes the ability of black voters.
Citing proposed divisions in the upstate region, Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh released the decision on Saturday — along with instructions lawmakers must follow so a new map that better complies with local laws can be drawn. .
The changes proposed in DeSantis’ draft — part of a once-a-decade census in which lawmakers redraw boundaries — include a problem area in the northern part of the state, stretching about 360 miles from the border from Alabama to the Atlantic, and south from Georgia to Orlando.
Previously, the district was chaired by U.S. Representative Al Lawson, a Democrat who enjoyed the support of a large base of black voters. However, in November, he lost his re-election bid following DeSantis’ recast, after much of his constituency was split.
Republicans defending district boundaries had previously argued that state provisions prohibiting the weakening or elimination of minority-dominated districts violated the U.S. Constitution — an argument Marsh dismissed on Sunday.
A redistricting plan pushed by Ron DeSantis violates Florida’s constitution, a local judge ruled on Saturday – citing a belief that it diminishes the ability of black voters.
Explaining his decision, the legal expert said he had been influenced by electoral rights groups who challenged the plan in court – saying they “demonstrated that the adopted plan resulted in a diminished ability of Clack voters to elect the candidate of their choice in violation of the Florida Constitution.
Marsh – once the Attorney General’s Chief of Corrections and an accomplished Navy officer – wrote: “The court finds that the defendants have not met their burden in this case.”
The move is just the latest to overturn new Congressional cards over concerns over black voting power, and comes after local Republicans presented a card that likely would have allowed Lawson to be re-elected. , but whose project was cancelled.
The DeSantis administration then presented its own version and pledged to veto any other. His office is now expected to appeal the case to the Florida Supreme Court before the end of the week.
As mentioned, the Congressional map proposed by DeSantis — which currently trails Donald Trump in most polls — split the Lawson District, which connected several black neighborhoods stretching from west Tallahassee to Jacksonville.
In June, the United States Supreme Court overturned a map drawn by Republicans in Alabama, with two conservative justices joining liberals in rejecting efforts to weaken a state. historic suffrage law. Shortly after, The Supreme Court lifted its grip on a Louisiana political overhaul deal, increasing the likelihood that the Republican-dominated state will have to redraw borders to create a majority-black second congressional district.
In each case, Republicans have appealed or pledged to appeal the rulings because they could benefit Democratic congressional candidates facing the 2024 election according to redrawn maps. The Florida case will likely end up in Florida Supreme Court.
Every 10 years — after a decennial census — lawmakers in all 50 states, including Florida, redraw political borders.
DeSantis, a candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has been criticized for essentially dragging U.S. Democratic Representative Al Lawson, who is black, out of office by carving up his constituency and dividing large numbers of black voters into conservative ridings represented by white Republicans. .
State Senator Kelli Stargel reviews redistricting maps during a Senate Redistribution Committee hearing on January 13, 2022 in Tallahassee. On Saturday, a state judge ruled that Governor DeSantis’ proposed Florida redistricting plan violated the state constitution.
In an unprecedented move, DeSantis interfered in the redistricting process last year by vetoing the Republican-dominated Legislature map that preserved Lawson’s district. He called a special meetingsubmitted its own map and demanded that lawmakers accept it.
In their lawsuit, voting rights groups claimed the redesigned Congressional map violated state and federal voting rights protections for black voters.
Florida’s population of 22.2 million is 17% black. According to the new maps, an area stretching about 360 miles (579 kilometers) from the Alabama border to the Atlantic Ocean and south from the Georgia border to Orlando in central Florida , is represented only by white members of Congress.
The Florida judge rejected defense arguments from Republican lawmakers that state provisions prohibiting the weakening or elimination of minority-dominated districts violated the US Constitution.
Marsh wrote: “The court finds that the defendants have failed to meet their burden in this case. »