Florida judge strikes down part of DeSantis House map
A Florida circuit court judge on Wednesday struck down elements of a new congressional district map pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), ruling that the version approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature unduly diminished the rights of African American voters in the northern part of the state.
Judge Layne Smith on Wednesday ruled in favor of Democratic plaintiffs, who had sued over map lines that eliminated a historically Black congressional district stretching from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee.
The legislature had initially approved a map that maintained the Black-majority district in north Florida, held by Rep. Al Lawson (D). But DeSantis vetoed that map and insisted the legislature pass his own version, which drew Lawson out of a seat.
Smith cited a voter-approved amendment to the state 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.
Smith, appointed to his post by DeSantis, said he would race to finish the written ruling so that the state could immediately appeal.
Smith opted to adopt a map proposed by plaintiffs, which leaves much of the rest of DeSantis’s map intact. The revised version redraws northern Florida to maintain Lawson’s district.
DeSantis’s proposed map created 18 Republican-leaning seats and just eight Democratic-leaning seats in what is typically one of the most narrowly divided swing states in America. The remaining two districts, both in the Miami area, would be competitive, though they would feature two Republican incumbents, Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez.
DeSantis’s intervention in the redistricting process was unprecedented for a governor in modern times, and it took many Republican legislators aback after they had passed their own maps. His version of the maps effectively added four Republican seats, bolstering the GOP’s chances of reclaiming control of the U.S. House of Representatives in this year’s midterm elections.
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