Court Rejects DeSantis’ Congressional Map for Violating Black Voters’ Rights

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By Giselle Balido

September 5, 2023

Voting rights advocates claim that the redrawn congressional map violated state and federal voting rights protections for Black voters. A judge agreed with the voting rights groups.

A Circuit Court judge in Florida’s Leon County has ruled that a congressional redistricting plan pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis violates the state constitution and decreases the ability of Black voters in north Florida to pick a representative of their choice.

DeSantis vetoed the map drawn by the Legislature earlier this year and proposed his own. He then called lawmakers back into the special session to approve it. 

In their lawsuit, the voting rights groups–which include the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, and Equal Ground Education Fund–claimed that the redrawn congressional map violated state and federal voting rights protections for Black voters.

RELATED: Midterm Results Prove DeSantis’ District Maps Are Unfair to Latino and Black Voters, According to Civil Rights Groups

According to Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh’s ruling, the plaintiffs have demonstrated that the new map “results in the diminishment of Black voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution.”

The plan has been prohibited from being used for any future US congressional elections and has been sent back to the Florida Legislature by Judge Marsh with instructions that lawmakers should draw a congressional map that complies with the Florida Constitution.

Redistricting Is a Big Deal

Ellen Freidin, president of Fair Districts Now, the advocacy organization that monitored the Fair Districts amendments, says the map pushed by the DeSantis administration greatly lessens the power of minority voters.

“[The map] reduces the number of districts in which African Americans could elect a representative of their choice by 50%, and reduces the voting power of Hispanic citizens,” Freidin said, adding that the map also “appears to have been drawn intentionally to favor Republicans.”

The current congressional map includes 20 districts where Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election and just eight districts where Democrat Joe Biden won.

RELATED: Florida Dems: DeSantis’ Redistricting Maps ‘Shameful,’ ‘an Attack on Democracy’

This, Democratic leaders say, is a big deal. Dividing or organizing an area into new political districts can have a definite impact on people’s lives, especially if maps are manipulated to favor one party, giving it more representation in the US House and the Florida legislature, and negatively affecting communities of color. This can make a huge difference in the quality of the education, the job opportunities, and the services a community receives.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried called the judge’s decision a “vindication for Black voters in North Florida.”

“We look forward to an expedited appeals process and a new map in advance of the 2024 elections — one that gives Black voters in North Florida the representation and respect they deserve,” Fried said. 

Secretary of State Cord Byrd said the judge’s decision will be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which is controlled by DeSantis’ appointees who could reverse the ruling.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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