A Florida b08e9d22a4" style="font-weight: bold;" class="class">redistricting plan pushed by Ron DeSantis comes in direct violation of the state’s constitution, a judge has ruled – based on the belief it diminishes the ability of black voters.
Citing proposed divisions in the state’s northern region, Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh aired the decision Saturday – along with instructions for lawmakers to follow so that a new map that better complies with local laws may be drawn.
Changes proposed in DeSantis’ draft – part of a once-a-decade census where lawmakers redraw boundaries – include one problem area in the northern part of the state, which had linked several communities from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.
Previously, the district was presided over by US Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat who enjoyed support from a wide base of black voters. However, in November, he lost his reelection bid under DeSantis’ redesign, after much of his district was left splintered.
Republicans defending the district lines had previously claimed the state’s provision against weakening or eliminating minority-dominant districts violated the U.S. Constitution – an argument Marsh rejected on Sunday.
A redistricting plan pushed by Ron DeSantis comes in violation of the Florida constitution, a local judge ruled Saturday – citing the belief it diminishes the ability of black voters
Citing proposed divisions in the state’s northern region, Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh aired the decision Saturday – along with instructions for lawmakers to follow so that a new map that better complies with local laws may be drawn
Explaining his ruling, the jurist said he was influenced by voting rights groups that challenged the plan in court – stating that they ‘have shown that the enacted plan results in the diminishment of clack voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution.’
Marsh – once the Chief of Corrections Litigation for the Attorney General and an accomplished Navy officer – wrote: ‘The court finds that defendants have not satisfied their burden in this case.’
The decision is only the latest to strike down new congressional maps over concerns of black voting power, and comes after local Republicans introduced a map that likely would have had Lawson win re-election but had their draft overrode.
The DeSantis administration then put forward its own version, and vowed to veto any other. His office is now expected to appeal the case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court before the week is out.
As mentioned, the congressional map pushed by DeSantis – who is currently trailing Donald Trump in most polls – broke up Lawson’s district, which had linked several black neighborhoods stretching from west of Tallahassee to Jacksonville.
He went on to lose his race by 20 points to Republican Congressman Neal Dunn, leading him to tell voters that he would consider running for his district again if lawmakers reinstated it to a similar configuration as before.
Currently, four out of Florida’s 28 representatives are black – making for a percentage marginally lower than the 17 percent that represents the portion of black residents living in the state overall.
Changes proposed in DeSantis’ draft – part of a once-a-decade census where lawmakers redraw boundaries – include one problem area in the north part of the state
Previously, the district was presided over by US Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat who enjoyed support from a wide base of black voters. However, in November, he lost his reelection bid under DeSantis’ redesign, after much of his district was splintered
Under the new maps, an area stretching about 360 miles from the Alabama border to the Atlantic Ocean – as well as south from the Georgia border to Orlando – is only represented by white members of Congress.
DeSantis has since faced criticism for the redrawing, which came during unprecedented special session where the governor thrust himself into the redistricting process last year by vetoing the map that preserved Lawson’s district.
He was accused of purposely drawing the lawmaker out of office by carving up his governance, as well as divvying up a large portion of black voters into conservative districts represented by Republicans.
Unlike areas to the south, North Florida – as well as its notorious panhandle – is mostly rural, and many of its residents black.
In an ensuing lawsuit, several voting rights groups claimed the redrawn congressional map violated state and federal voting rights – particularly ones that provide protections for black voters.
State Sen. Kelli Stargel looks through redistricting maps during a Senate Committee on Reapportionment hearing on Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee. On Saturday, a state judge ruled the Florida redistricting plan pushed by Gov. DeSantis violates the state constitution
A similar controversy involving the once a decade census erupted in June, the Supreme Court overturned a Republican-drawn map in Alabama, with two conservative justices joining liberals in rejecting the effort to weaken a landmark voting rights law.
Not long after, the Court lifted its hold on a Louisiana political remap case, increasing the likelihood that the Republican-dominated state will have to redraw boundary lines to create a second mostly Black congressional district.
In each of the cases, Republicans have either appealed or vowed to appeal the decisions since they could benefit Democratic congressional candidates facing 2024 races under redrawn maps.
The Florida case likely will end up before the Florida Supreme Court.