DeSantis Intentionally Hurt Black Voters With Congressional Map, Critics Say

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By Giselle Balido

October 4, 2023

“It is blatantly about race from day one,” says attorney Gregory Diskant, who has asked a court to throw out the new congressional maps that left North Floridians without a Black member of Congress for the first time in 30 years.

Attorneys representing voting rights groups and the state delivered closing arguments Tuesday in a federal trial in which Gov. Ron DeSantis is accused of having violated the US Constitution’s voting rights protections by deliberately dismantling a congressional district that favored Black candidates.

After the new boundaries pushed by DeSantis across four North Florida districts were established, all four seats were won by Republican members of Congress. This left no Black member of Congress from North Florida for the first time in 30 years.

“It is blatantly about race from day one,” said Gregory Diskant, attorney for plaintiffs including the NAACP, Common Cause, and Fair Districts Now, as well as individual voters who want to see the new congressional boundaries struck down by the court.

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

For his part, DeSantis’ lawyer, Mohammad Jazil, claims the governor’s only intent was to make sure that Florida lawmakers would not create an unconstitutional district by linking Black communities in the Tallahassee-area to those in Jacksonville.

But Diskant was not buying it, claiming that DeSantis “did not want a Black performing district in North Florida.”

The three judges on the case announced that they expect a ruling by the end of the year. Two were appointed by Republican presidents. The third was named by former President Barack Obama.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years after each Census count is conducted and is supposed to result in congressional maps that fairly divide states and the people who live in them into distinct geographical territories in order to ensure appropriate representation. When done fairly, redistricting can ensure that communit­ies have a fair shot at elect­ing candid­ates who will fight for their concerns.

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

When exploited for partisan political gain, it can result in certain voters and communities being disempowered.

“In an unprecedented power grab, the Governor’s congressional map, with the help of Republican leaders, has manipulated the congressional boundaries in favor of their party,” Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon told Floricua earlier in the year. “This attack on democracy and fair representation will now slash Black representation in half in Congress. This means that of the 28 districts we have in Florida, only 2 will be Black held to represent nearly three and a half million of us.”

“How the lines are drawn can make a big difference in the laws passed in our communities and where our tax dollars go,” agrees Jackie Espinosa, who ran for Osceola County Commissioner District 4.

“Who represents us will determine whether we have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, honest textbooks that our kids can learn from, and whether we have resources in our neighborhoods to maintain roads and hospitals,” added Nixon.

The governor has already inflamed racial tensions across the state with his attacks on diversity programs in public schools and higher education, his ban on Critical Race Theory, and by enacting harsh penalties on peaceful demonstrations after the Black Lives Matter movement protests in 2020.

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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