WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- A Florida judge on Wednesday blocked a portion of a redistricting map pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
- Circuit Judge Layne Smith said, “the enacted map is unconstitutional under the Fair District amendment.”
- Smith ruled that the Republican’s version “unduly diminished the rights of African American voters in the northern part of the state.”
A Florida circuit court judge blocked a portion of a new congressional district map pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Judge Layne Smith on Wednesday ruled that the version approved by the Republican-led state legislature “unduly diminished the rights of African American voters in the northern part of the state.”
Smith, who was appointed by DeSantis, ruled in favor of Democratic plaintiffs. The Democratic redistricting group, together with voting rights and civil rights organizations, filed a suit against the state’s new congressional map on April 22 — the same day DeSantis signed it into law. The groups had sued over map lines that dismantled a historically Black congressional district stretching from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee.
Initially, the legislature had approved a map that maintained the Black-majority district in north Florida, held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat. However, Gov. DeSantis vetoed that map and pushed the legislature to pass his own version, removing Lawson from a seat.
According to The Hill, Smith cited a voter-approved amendment to the Florida constitution that requires maps to be drawn in a fair manner.
“I am finding the enacted map is unconstitutional under the Fair District Amendment because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice,” Smith said from the bench.
The judge said he would race to finish the written ruling so that Florida could immediately appeal.
Smith favored a map proposed by the plaintiffs. with the revised version redraws northern Florida to maintain Lawson’s district.
DeSantis’s proposed redistricting map has 18 Republican-leaning seats and only eight Democratic-leaning seats. The remaining two districts would feature two Republican incumbents, Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez.
DeSantis’s version of the maps will add four Republican seats, increasing the Republicans’ chances of reclaiming control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections in November