DeSantis-appointed judge blocks his ‘unconstitutional’ redistricting card

A ‘racially neutral’ congressional map drawn by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that would have eliminated a black district in a northern part of the state has been struck down by a DeSantis-appointed circuit court judge who ruled found the redistricting plan unconstitutional.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, Florida has yet to finalize redistricting maps after DeSantis vetoed congressional districts proposed by the GOP-controlled legislature on March 29. Subsequently, the Republican-dominated House and Senate chose not to draw new maps, but instead asked DeSantis to do so. Now the governor’s cards are also downed.

Leon County Circuit Judge J. Layne Smith, appointed to the circuit court by DeSantis two years ago, said he would issue a formal order later this week to stop the cards from taking effect during the November elections, according to the Associated Press.

“I find the enacted map to be unconstitutional under the Fair District Amendment…because it diminishes the ability of African Americans to elect the representative of their choice,” Smith said during a court hearing conducted via Zoom Wednesday, according to the Florida Phoenix.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, a congressional map drawn by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that would have eliminated a black district was rejected by a circuit court judge appointed by DeSantis. Above, DeSantis holds a press conference at Miami Dade College on January 26, 2022.
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DeSantis’ office said it would appeal the decision. “As Justice Smith implied, these complex constitutional legal questions were always going to be decided on appeal,” DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said in an email. “We will no doubt appeal his decision and are confident that the constitutional map enacted by the Florida Legislature and enacted into law is within the law.”

DeSantis’ map would have eliminated Florida’s 5th congressional district, which stretches from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and is represented by black Democrat Al Lawson. Lawson District is approximately 47% black, according to the US Census.

“The district that has since been signed into law and signed into law by the governor disperses 367,000 African American votes among four different districts,” Smith said. “The African-American population is far from being a plurality or a majority.”

In April, at a bill-signing press conference in Miami, DeSantis said the current 5th congressional district “divides people according to the color of their skin,” adding that the district was racist .

“I think what they are going to produce will be something that will be acceptable to people and obviously we will get my signature for coming up with it,” he said. “However, North Florida will be drawn race-neutral.”

However, Lawson disagrees that DeSantis’ cards are racially neutral. Lawson says DeSantis is choosing to wipe out minority access districts in Congress in order to get more Republican votes.

“The judge recognizes that this card is illegal and diminishes the ability of African Americans to elect representatives of their choice,” Lawson said in a statement Wednesday. “DeSantis is wrong to enact this Republican-leaning map that is in flagrant violation of the United States and state constitutions.”

Newsweek contacted DeSantis and Lawson for comment.


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