Judge Rules Redistricting Plan Unconstitutional

Judge Rules Redistricting Plan Unconstitutional

By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — A Leon County circuit judge Saturday ruled that a congressional redistricting plan pushed through the Legislature by Gov. Ron DeSantis violated the Florida Constitution and needs to be redrawn.

Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh sided with voting-rights groups in a lawsuit focused on a North Florida district that in the past elected Black Democrat Al Lawson but was dramatically revamped during the 2022 redistricting process. White Republicans won all North Florida congressional districts in the November elections.

Florida voters in 2010 approved a constitutional amendment, known as the Fair Districts amendment, that set standards for redistricting. Part of that barred drawing districts that would “diminish” the ability of minorities to “elect representatives of their choice.”

“Under the stipulated facts (in the lawsuit), plaintiffs have shown that the enacted plan results in the diminishment of Black voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution,” Marsh wrote.

Marsh ordered that the issue return to the Legislature “to enact a remedial map in compliance” with the state Constitution. The ruling, however, is expected to be appealed.

“This is a significant victory in the fight for fair representation for Black Floridians,” Olivia Mendoza, director of litigation and policy for the National Redistricting Foundation, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement. “As a result, the current discriminatory map should be replaced with a map that restores the Fifth Congressional District in a manner that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.”

Attorneys for the Florida House, Senate and Secretary of State Cord Byrd argued during a hearing last month that the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause prevented using a district similar to the district Lawson held because it would involve racial gerrymandering.

The disputed district, Congressional District 5, in the past stretched from Jacksonville to Gadsden County, west of Tallahassee, incorporating areas that had large Black populations. The 2022 plan put the district in the Jacksonville area.

But Marsh wrote that the state had not proven gerrymandering.

DeSantis cited the equal-protection issue as he effectively took control of the congressional redistricting process last year. He vetoed a plan passed by the Legislature and called a special session that ultimately led to a map that helped lead in the November elections to Florida Republicans increasing their number of U.S. House members from 16 to 20.

While the case initially addressed other districts, attorneys for the plaintiffs and the state last month agreed to narrow it to Congressional District 5. In the agreement, the state acknowledged that “if the non-diminishment standard applies to North Florida, then there is no Black-performing district in North Florida under the enacted map.”

But the state maintained “that the Equal Protection Clause would nonetheless prohibit the creation of a Black-performing district in North Florida.”

8 Responses to "Judge Rules Redistricting Plan Unconstitutional"

  1. Edward Lyle, the “robed activist” is one of the most active federalist society members in Tallahassee. He was appointed by Rick Scott.

  2. Since black voters vote Democratic 90+% of the time, arguably, drawing a black district is by definition ‘gerrymandering’ because it ALWAYS favors the Democratic Party. Republican Districts in Florida are known to elect conservative black candidates (e.g., currently – State Sen. Simon, State Rep. Barnaby, State Rep. Jacques, U.S. Rep. Donalds [formerly a State Rep. in a GOP district]).

    This cannot be said of drawing a hispanic district, which routinely elect candidates from both sides of the aisle.

  3. They got a black Senator, and still went bat-poop crazy because he’s a conservative!

    SCOFLA will overturn this.

  4. The previous boundaries of district 5 exclusively favored the black vote. Al Lawson easily won the black vote.

    The boundaries were redraw in a manner that made district 5 race neutral, not giving the black or white voters an advantage. Al Lawson lost the last election for district 5.

    So now, people are up in arms and want district 5 boundaries put back so the black voters have an advantage over white voters and a black candidate will always win in district 5.

    Do I have that right? If so, could white voters demand exclusively white districts too like the blacks are demanding.

  5. ~ “Under the stipulated facts (in the lawsuit), plaintiffs have shown that the enacted plan results in the diminishment of Black voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution,” Marsh wrote. ~

    That statement alone shows that this robed activist doesn’t belong on the bench. No voter – regardless of their skin tone – has the ability to “elect” their candidate of choice… rather they have a Constitutional Right to “vote for” the candidate of their choice. The statement also exposes that this activist in a robe believes that “black” people will – or are only permitted to – vote for a “black” candidate… which in itself is an extremely racist assumption.

    Make no mistake about it, progressively-Marxist Democrats like this robed activist have been, are now, and always will be the true racists among us.

  6. That was the Best thing DeSantis ever did! He freed us from the tyranny of Al Lawson in Jacksonville. I live in Gadsden County. Al has done NOTHING for blacks here. Except litter the landscape with his campaign signs. Good riddance.

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