Florida judge rejects pro-GOP Congressional card

A Florida state judge rejected the Congress card passed through the Republican legislature and pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, ruling it violated state law by luring black voters out of a North Florida district.

Circuit Judge Layne Smith ruled Wednesday that the enacted map violates state constitutional amendments on redistricting because “it diminishes the ability of African Americans to elect candidates of their choice” in Florida’s 5th District.

He called on the state to adopt a map that restores the district’s previous shape, which would stretch from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and have an almost majority black voting-age population.

The originally adopted version of the map shrinks Florida’s 5th district to nearly a third of its original size, while dispersing about 370,000 black voters to four other districts, according to evidence presented in court by the challengers of the map and voting groups.

“The minority vote is reduced enough that you would expect it to be much more difficult for minorities to elect the candidate of their choice,” Smith said.

Smith added that there would be a signed written order by Friday so the state’s defendants could appeal. They will be able to appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals for the 1st District, although Smith said the court could then send it to the Florida Supreme Court.

Mohammad Omar Jazil, attorney for the Florida secretary of state, noted that a stay of Smith’s decision would automatically be triggered if the defendants appealed.

“I expect the appeals court to understand this and act as quickly as possible,” Smith said.

Democratic Congressman Al Lawson, who represents Florida’s 5th District, said he was pleased with Smith’s decision and said “it’s essential to maintain Congressional District 5, so that minority voters have a votes at the polls in November”.

“DeSantis is wrong to enact this Republican-leaning map that clearly violates the United States and state constitutions,” he said. “I am optimistic that future courts will also do what is right.”

As the original map moved through the legislature, DeSantis and his allies cited compactness issues while pushing for a sweeping change to Florida’s 5th district. They had also claimed the district violated the U.S. Constitution because it assigned voters “primarily based on race.”

“The racial and political partisan data is in no way related to my drawing of any of the districts on the map,” DeSantis deputy chief of staff Alex Kelly said during a presentation of their map to a committee. of the Florida Senate in April. .

Smith declined to comment on whether Florida’s 5th District violated federal suffrage law, saying that was a decision for another court to make.

DeSantis’ card also favored his party and could have given away the party a net gain of four seats in Florida alone. All seven members of the Florida Supreme Court were appointed by Republican governors.

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