Uh oh. Judge strikes down part of Florida's redistricting map

Uh oh. Judge strikes down part of Florida's redistricting map
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

After all of the nonsense going on with New York’s redistricting process, you may have been taking some comfort in the fact that the process seemed to be playing out more smoothly in Florida. As you may recall, the legislature drew up one map that didn’t make too many changes from the existing structure. But Governor Ron DeSantis rejected that map and submitted another one that seemed to favor Republican candidates quite a bit more. That seemed to be the end of the story until today. A judge heard a challenge to the DeSantis Map and has ordered it to be changed. The court isn’t striking down the entire thing, but they do want changes made to the map around the Jacksonville area. The ruling can be appealed, but if it stands, this will likely work out in the favor of the Democrats. (Jacksonville Tributary)

A 2nd Judicial Circuit Court judge struck down Jacksonville’s congressional districts in a ruling against Florida’s redistricting process.

Circuit Judge Layne Smith said, “I am finding the enacted map is unconstitutional because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice.”

He ordered the state to adopt a map that maintains an east-to-west version of Jacksonville’s 5th Congressional District, stretching from Duval to Gadsden counties.

At issue is the change DeSantis made to the northern part of the state, particularly in and around Jacksonville. The original map carved out the 5th District running north to south, almost entirely in Duval County, where Black voters would maintain a majority. The new map stretches in more of an east to west direction and would significantly dilute the minority vote in that area.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs that the Jacksonville portion of the map was in violation of the state constitution. If the state appeals the decision, it will go to the First Circuit Court of Appeals and then potentially straight to the state supreme court. The only argument the state seems to be making at this point is that there isn’t enough time to redraw the map again ahead of the primaries.

But the primaries aren’t until August, so that argument may fall on deaf ears. Challenges to New York’s heavily gerrymandered map met the same claims from the state, but the courts wound up ordering new maps and moving the primaries back. And at least some of them will now take place in August. That may serve as some sort of precedent in the Florida case.

Win or lose, even if the 5th District is modified, the GOP will still likely pick up more seats in Florida than they currently have. But the same plaintiffs who brought this case have a separate complaint in process where they are seeking to throw out the entire map and start over. So clearly, we haven’t reached the end of this story yet.

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