Florida's Congressional Map Illegally Hurt Black Voters, Judge Rules

17:46 03.09.2023

A Florida congressional redistricting plan championed by Governor Ron DeSantis was deemed unfair to black voters and thrown out by a state judge. Leon County Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh ruled on Saturday that the map diffused the voting power of black residents in northern Florida, violating the state Constitution's Fair Districts Amendment. The amendment prohibits the redrawing of districts that diminish minority voting power. Florida officials have until Monday to file notice of an appeal, but the governor's office did not comment on the ruling.

The redistricting plan, which gave the GOP four more districts in their favor, was fiercely advocated for by Governor DeSantis, who is a possible candidate for the 2024 presidential election. The governor has the option to take the fight to the Supreme Court of Florida, where he has appointed five out of seven justices. Earlier this year, DeSantis vetoed a map that would have given Republicans an 18 to 10 advantage in the state's 28 congressional seats. The vetoed map included District 5, which had a significant number of black voters.

District 5 became a contentious issue in the redistricting battle. The governor's office argued that keeping the district in a similar form to the old map would violate the US Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment due to "unconstitutional racial gerrymandering." However, Judge Marsh dismissed this argument, stating that there is no case that finds the non-diminishment language of the Fair Districts Amendment or the Voting Rights Act to violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection provision.

The ruling comes as Democrats and Republicans engage in legal battles over congressional redistricting across the country. Nationally, Republicans were considered the slight winners of the 2022 redistricting battle. However, Democrats have started gaining momentum in their legal efforts to challenge some of the redistricting wins. The US Supreme Court recently struck down a GOP-backed map in Alabama due to concerns about voting rights. The court also ordered the drawing of a second mostly black congressional district in Louisiana. Both cases are expected to face strong opposition from Republicans.

In Florida, the congressional delegation currently consists of 20 Republicans and 8 Democrats, giving the GOP a 71% majority. Former President Donald Trump won Florida with 51% of the vote in the 2020 election. The previous map had a delegation of 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats. The redistricting battles taking place across the country will have significant implications for the 2024 elections, with both parties vowing to fight for apportionment advantages.

The ruling in Florida has national significance as it addresses the representation of black voters in Congress. Redistricting decisions like this one can impact the balance of power in the House of Representatives, potentially determining whether Republicans or Democrats hold the majority. The outcome of legal challenges to maps in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin could shape the political landscape for years to come.

If the ruling stands and an appeal is not successful, Florida will be required to draw a new map for the 2024 election that does not diminish the voting power of black Floridians. However, the case could be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which is controlled by DeSantis appointees and may reverse the ruling. The response of legislators to potentially redrawing the map remains uncertain, as they may choose to comply with the ruling or push the boundaries to maximize Republican advantage, similar to what occurred in Alabama after a Supreme Court ruling.

/ Sunday, September 3, 2023, 5:46 PM /

themes:  Donald Trump  Florida  North Carolina  New York (state)  Wisconsin  Alabama  Louisiana

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