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Judge blocks DeSantis’ congressional redistricting map

You can see DeSantis’ map below, as well as maps previously proposed by the Florida Senate and House.
Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a new congressional map ahead of Florida's special session seeking to redraw the state's district lines.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 2:47 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 3:06 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP/WCTV) - A congressional map approved by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and drawn by his staff is unconstitutional because it breaks up a district where Black voters can choose their representatives, a state judge said Wednesday.

Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith said he would issue a formal order Thursday or Friday to keep the maps from taking effect in November’s election. He made it clear he would rule in favor of voting rights groups challenging the maps.

“The enacted map is unconstitutional under the Fair District Amendment, article three, section 20, because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect the representative of their choice.” Smith said.

Smith said the order will likely replace the DeSantis map with one of two that the Legislature included in a bill and sent to DeSantis in March. The governor vetoed the bill and later called the Legislature back into special session. The Republican-dominated House and Senate chose not to draw a new map, and instead passed the DeSantis map.

You can view the maps the Florida Senate and House had proposed below or at this link.

FLORIDA SENATE’S PROPOSED MAP

The Senate passed a proposed map that largely would keep the same design of the 5th...
The Senate passed a proposed map that largely would keep the same design of the 5th congressional district, which goes from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee.(Florida Legislature)

FLORIDA HOUSE’S PROPOSED MAP

The House proposal could increase the Republican seats by two to 18. The state’s overall number...
The House proposal could increase the Republican seats by two to 18. The state’s overall number of districts is increasing from 27 to 28 this year because of population growth over the past decade.(Florida Legislature)

The challenge focuses on a north Florida district now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson. The district runs from Jacksonville west more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) to Gadsden County and nearly half of its population is Black.

Lawson issued the following statement Wednesday:

“I am pleased by the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court order to overrule DeSantis’ unconstitutional congressional map. The judge recognizes that this map is unlawful and diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect representatives of their choice. DeSantis is wrong for enacting this Republican-leaning map that is in clear violation of the U.S. and state constitutions. It is critical to maintain congressional district five so minority voters have a voice at the ballot box in November. I am optimistic that future courts will also do what is right.”

DeSantis’ proposal prompted a protest by Black House members as the chamber was preparing to vote on the maps.

RELATED: Hundreds protest at Florida Capitola s special session on redrawing congressional maps begins

Smith said he will issue his order as soon as he can so the state can immediately appeal it. It may be the conservative state Supreme Court that ultimately resolves the dispute.

Smith said that while the DeSantis map is more compact, the issue of allowing Black voters to choose their representatives is more important.

“The district that has since been enacted and signed into law by the governor does disperse 367,000 African American votes between four different districts,” Smith said in a video call with both sides. “The African American population is no way near a plurality or a majority.”

The governor’s office drew up a map it described as neutral on race and party affiliation, and which it said abided by both the state and federal constitutions.

Smith said his ruling will be based on the state constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.

DeSantis’ communications director Taryn Fenske sent the following statement to WCTV Tuesday:

“As Judge Smith implied, these complex constitutional matters of law were always going to be decided at the appellate level. We will undoubtedly be appealing his ruling and are confident the constitutional map enacted by the Florida legislature and signed into law passes legal muster. We look forward to defending it.”

Qualifying for federal office will run from June 13-17.

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