Florida Supreme Court Considers Challenge to Governor DeSantis’ Redistricting Map: Implications for Voting Rights and Representation

The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to consider a challenge to the redistricting map implemented by Governor Ron DeSantis.[0] This map, which was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature, led to the dismantling of the seat held by former Democratic Representative Al Lawson and resulted in a net gain of four seats for Republicans during the 2022 election cycle.[1] Voting rights and civil rights groups, who had initially reached an agreement with the Legislature and the DeSantis administration to narrow the scope of the lawsuit, argued that the map violated Florida’s constitution. They claimed that it diminished the ability of minorities to elect representatives of their choice, which is prohibited by the 2010 Fair Districts amendments.[2]

This lawsuit is not the only legal challenge facing the DeSantis map.[1] Groups such as Common Cause and the NAACP have filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that the map is discriminatory and unconstitutional.[1] A trial was held in September, but a ruling from the three-judge panel has yet to be issued.[1]

The case before the Florida Supreme Court specifically focuses on the elimination of a Black district in North Florida. The plaintiffs, led by the Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, argue that the map wrongfully dismantled the district previously represented by Al Lawson.[3] They contend that this action violated the Fair Districts amendments and diminished the ability of minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision to hear the appeal comes after the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the redistricting plan in December.[4] The plaintiffs have argued that the appeals court’s ruling contradicted Supreme Court precedents in redistricting cases and established a new test that disregards previous decisions. They have urged the Supreme Court to correct the appeals court’s attempt to ignore precedent.

Attorneys for Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the Legislature have disputed these claims, arguing that the appeals court’s ruling did not violate Supreme Court precedents. They have also highlighted the sprawling nature of the former district and its inclusion of areas with significant numbers of Black voters.[5]

While the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, it is unlikely that a resolution will be reached before the candidate-qualifying deadline for the November elections.[4] The court’s order sets a timeline for the filing of briefs, with the possibility of additional filing deadlines extending into May. The order does not specify a date for oral arguments, but it notes that attorneys will be notified approximately 60 days prior to the arguments.[2]

The outcome of this case will have significant implications for the redistricting process in Florida and the ability of minority communities to elect representatives of their choice. The plaintiffs argue that the map diminishes the voting power of Black voters and violates the state’s constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision will shape the future of Florida’s congressional districts and could have far-reaching consequences for representation in the state.

0. “Florida Supreme Court to Take Up Challenge to DeSantis-Drawn Congressional Map” The Messenger, 25 Jan. 2024, https://themessenger.com/politics/florida-supreme-court-to-take-up-challenge-to-desantis-drawn-congressional-map

1. “Florida Supreme Court will consider challenge to DeSantis’ redistricting map” POLITICO, 24 Jan. 2024, https://www.politico.com/news/2024/01/24/florida-supreme-court-desantis-map-00137673

2. “FL Supeme Court will take its time deciding fate of Black-opportunity congressional district” Florida Phoenix, 25 Jan. 2024, https://floridaphoenix.com/2024/01/25/fl-supeme-court-will-take-its-time-deciding-fate-of-black-opportunity-congressional-district/

3. “Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments against Ron DeSantis’ congressional map” Florida Politics, 24 Jan. 2024, https://floridapolitics.com/archives/654958-florida-supreme-court-will-hear-arguments-against-ron-desantis-congressional-map/

4. “Justices to take up redistricting fight | Port Charlotte News” Yoursun.com, 25 Jan. 2024, https://www.yoursun.com/charlotte/news/justices-to-take-up-redistricting-fight/article_be649d58-bb04-11ee-a775-fbe6bb1b0f31.html

5. “Supreme Court takes redistricting case but likely not in time for 2024 election” Orlando Sentinel, 24 Jan. 2024, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2024/01/24/supreme-court-takes-redistricting-case-but-likely-not-in-time-for-2024-election/

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