Florida Judge Rules Governor DeSantis’ Redistricting Map Unconstitutional, Impacting Black Voters

A Florida judge has ruled that Governor Ron DeSantis’ redistricting map is unconstitutional due to its negative impact on black voters. The ruling comes after Democratic congressman Al Lawson lost his seat by just 20 votes. The judge, J. Lee Marsh, stated that the map diminishes the ability of black voters to elect their candidate of choice, violating the Florida constitution.

The redistricting plan, pushed by Governor DeSantis, was found to have improperly diluted black voting power in northern Florida. The district in question was previously held by Representative Al Lawson, a Democrat who enjoyed support from a wide base of black voters.[0] However, after the redistricting process, he lost his reelection bid by a narrow margin.[1]

This decision is the latest in a series of rulings against Republican-drawn congressional maps in the southern states.[2] Concerns have been raised about the reduction of black voting power through redistricting. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Republican-drawn map in Alabama, and shortly after, lifted its hold on a Louisiana political remap case.[3] These rulings indicate a growing recognition of the need to preserve the political voice of black voters.

The ruling is expected to be appealed by the state, which would likely bring the case before the Florida Supreme Court. The state must file a notice of appeal by Monday, and both parties intend to request that the Florida Supreme Court hear the case directly, bypassing the usual step of going through a lower appellate court.[4]

Democrats have welcomed the judge’s ruling and called on the Florida Legislature to draw a fair and equitable map that restores the voting power of black voters.[5] The National Redistricting Foundation, which initiated the lawsuit, emphasized the need to replace the discriminatory map with one that allows black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.

Governor DeSantis has argued that the mandatory protections for black voters violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[6] However, the court rejected this argument, highlighting the importance of taking race into account to preserve the political voice of black voters. It remains to be seen whether DeSantis will prevail in his appeal.

The case originated from a lawsuit brought by various groups, including Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground, Florida Rising, and the League of Women Voters of Florida.[1] These groups sued over the new maps in April 2022, following DeSantis’ signing of the new congressional maps into law.[7]

The redistricting process in Florida has been contentious, with the Republican-controlled Legislature enacting maps that would benefit Republicans in the majority of districts. The GOP gained four congressional seats in the state, increasing their representation from 16 to 20 out of 28 seats.[2] This shift helped Republicans secure a slim majority in the House in 2022.

Overall, the ruling against DeSantis’ redistricting map is seen as a victory for fair representation and the voting rights of black Floridians. It highlights the ongoing struggle to ensure equal and equitable political representation for all citizens. The case will now proceed to the Florida Supreme Court, where the ultimate decision will be made.

0. “Florida judge slams DeSantis’ redistricting map as ‘unconstitutional’ over its impact on black voters after De” Daily Mail, 3 Sep. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12476205/Florida-judge-rejects-DeSantis-redistricting-map-unconstitutional-black-voters.html

1. “DeSantis-backed congressional map declared unconstitutional by judge” Washington Examiner, 3 Sep. 2023, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/campaigns/desantis-backed-congressional-map-declared-unconstitutional-judge

2. “Florida judge strikes down DeSantis-backed voting map as unconstitutional” The Guardian US, 3 Sep. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/sep/03/florida-judge-ron-desantis-voting-redistricting-map-unconstitutional

3. “Judge rejects DeSantis-drawn congressional map as unconstitutional” The Hill, 3 Sep. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/4184784-judge-rejects-desantis-drawn-congressional-map/

4. “State judge strikes down congressional districting map in North Florida” WPTV News Channel 5 West Palm, 2 Sep. 2023, https://www.wptv.com/news/political/state-judge-strikes-down-congressional-districting-map-in-north-florida

5. “Judge: Congressional district lines around Jacksonville unconstitutional” The Florida Times-Union, 2 Sep. 2023, https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/politics/elections/2023/09/02/judge-congressional-district-lines-around-jacksonville-unconstitutional/70753135007/

6. “Florida redistricting lawsuit overturns DeSantis map, empowers Black voters” The Tributary, 2 Sep. 2023, https://jaxtrib.org/2023/09/02/florida-redistricting-lawsuit-overturns-desantis-map-empowers-black-voters

7. “Judge strikes down north Florida congressional districts and orders lawmakers to redraw map – POLITICO” POLITICO, 2 Sep. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/09/02/judge-says-desantis-congressional-map-is-unconstitutional-orders-lawmakers-to-draw-new-one-00113835

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