September 28, 2022

STRUCK DOWN: Judge Rules Against DeSantis’ Gerrymandered Maps

STRUCK DOWN: Judge Rules Against DeSantis' Gerrymandered Maps

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A judge from the Second Circuit Court has ruled against efforts by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to gerrymander Congressional Districts in North Florida to give the GOP an unfair electoral advantage.

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The maps proposed by the governor’s office would potentially add four new Republican seats to the U.S. House of Representatives while cutting down the number of Black majority districts in the state from four to two. They seek to accomplish this by breaking up Florida’s 5th Congressional district, currently held by Democratic Congressman Al Lawson, into several red districts.

In an unprecedented move not seen in recent history, these undemocratic maps were approved during a fast-tracked special session that shattered any semblance of democratic norms and were protested by Florida lawmakers who were silenced during the process by Republicans who hold majorities in the state legislature.

Circuit Judge Layne Smith ordered Florida to stop their efforts to dismantle the 5th Congressional district and adopt a map that maintains a version of it in the northern part of the state.

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

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Voting rights advocates and democracy enthusiasts welcomed the news of this setback against DeSantis’ efforts to gerrymander Florida to his advantage, but the governor’s office has stated they plan to appeal the ruling, which could end up at the Florida Supreme Court.

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Florida’s primary elections are taking place in August, meaning that chaos has been injected into the democratic process by DeSantis’ meddling with the redistricting process. Republicans had already approved a map by 67-47 in the House and 24-15 in the Senate that, while by no means perfect, was perceived as being less aggressively gerrymandered than what was originally expected. DeSantis bulldozed those efforts by vetoing those maps and demanding his own to be adopted, making himself the only governor in recent history to impose himself in such an authoritarian manner in the redistricting of maps.

Plaintiffs in the case against DeSantis’ maps successfully argued that eliminating Jacksonville’s current Black ability-to-elect district violated the state constitution. While plaintiffs are currently seeking a preliminary injunction redrawing North Florida’s districts before the 2022 elections, they ultimately want all of the Florida maps proposed by DeSantis to be thrown out and redrawn to ensure that Floridians have fair districts.

Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.

RELATED STORY: SIT-IN: Florida Democrats erupt over Republican legislative approval of DeSantis’ gerrymandered maps

Thomas Kennedy

is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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