(AP) – A Florida redistribution plan The election, sponsored by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, violates the state constitution and must not be used in future US congressional elections because it limits the ability of black voters in North Florida to choose a representative of their choice, a state judge ruled Saturday.
District Judge J. Lee Marsh returned the plan to the Florida Legislature with instructions that lawmakers draft a new congressional map consistent with the Florida Constitution.
The constituencies that challenged the plan in court “have shown that the enacted plan results in the ability of black voters to be restricted in voting for their preferred candidate, in violation of the Florida Constitution,” Marsh wrote.
The decision was the latest to scrap new congressional election plans in the Southern states over concerns they would weaken black suffrage.
In June, the US Supreme Court overturned a Republican-drafted map in Alabama, with two conservative justices joining Liberals in opposing efforts to weaken it landmark voting rights law. Not long after the Supreme Court has lifted its control of a Louisiana political reorganization case, increasing the likelihood that the Republican-dominated state will have to redraw the lines to create a second mostly black congressional district.
In each of the cases, Republicans have either appealed the decisions or vowed to appeal because they could benefit Democratic congressional candidates who must run in 2024 under redrawn cards. The Florida case is likely to end up in the Florida Supreme Court.
Every 10 years—according to a once-a-decade census—legislators in all 50 states, including Florida, redraw political boundaries.
DeSantis, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has been criticized for essentially luring out Democratic U.S. Representative Al Lawson, who is black, by dividing up his district and drawing large numbers of black voters in divided up conservative districts represented by white Republicans.
In an unprecedented move, DeSantis interfered in the redistribution process last year by vetoing the Republican-dominated Legislature’s map protecting Lawson’s district. He convene a special sessionpresented his own card and asked lawmakers to accept it.
In their lawsuit, the voting rights groups alleged that the redrawn congressional map violated state and federal voting rights protections for black voters.
Florida’s population of 22.2 million is 17% black. According to the new maps, an area stretching about 360 miles (579 kilometers) from the Alabama border to the Atlantic Ocean and south from the Georgia border to Orlando in central Florida is represented only by white congressmen.
The Florida judge dismissed Republican lawmakers’ defense arguments that the state’s determination against weakening or eliminating minority-dominated counties violated the US Constitution.
Marsh wrote, “The court finds that the defendants in this case have failed in their charge.”