Florida appeals court upholds congressional map championed by DeSantis

A Florida appeals court on Friday upheld the state’s congressional map advocated by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which was enacted after the 2020 census and dismantled a Black-majority district in the northern part of the state.

The decision reversed a lower court ruling, which had found that the new map had improperly diluted Black voting power.

The appeals court disagreed, finding that the plaintiffs “failed to present any evidence” that the earlier version of the 5th Congressional District, which connected Black communities from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, contained a singular cohesive community that would have a right to protection under Florida’s constitution.

Republicans currently hold 20 of Florida’s 28 US House seats under the map put forward by DeSantis last year. The map moved a significant number of Black voters from the old 5th District – which had been represented by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat – into communities represented by White Republicans. Lawson then ran for a redrawn Republican-leaning seat anchored in Tallahassee and lost to GOP Rep. Neal Dunn by 20 points.

Opponents of the Florida map panned Friday’s decision.

“This decision blatantly ignores the will of Florida voters who — more than a decade ago — demanded Fair Districts that protect representation for communities of color,” Amy Keith, the executive director of Common Cause Florida, said in a statement, referring to the state’s Fair Districts Amendment.

The state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010 requires lawmakers to give minority communities an opportunity to “elect representatives of their choice.”

Keith noted in her statement that the Florida congressional boundaries are also being challenged in federal court in a separate pending case that argues that the map violates the US Constitution. “Our work is not done until all voters can exercise their right to fair representation,” she said.

The Florida case is one of several ongoing legal battles over redistricting, the outcome of which could change the balance of power in the US House of Representatives after next year’s elections. Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the chamber.

In neighboring Georgia, the Republican-controlled legislature is meeting in special session to craft new legislative and congressional maps to comply with a federal court order to boost Black political power in the state.

Georgia Republicans released a proposed congressional map Friday afternoon that appears to retain the current partisan balance in the state’s US House delegation. Republicans currently hold nine of the state’s 14 seats in the chamber.

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