Florida judge strikes down part of 'unconstitutional' map rigged by GOP Gov. DeSantis

Florida judge strikes down part of 'unconstitutional' map rigged by GOP Gov. DeSantis
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. William Buchanan)
Gov. Ron DeSantis, commander in chief of the Florida National Guard, addresses the crowd during a change of command ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center on April 6. During the ceremony U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James Eifert assumed command from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun, who retired after 36 years of service

A state judge on Wednesday invalidated part of Florida's new congressional map—drawn by right-wing Gov. Ron DeSantis' office and approved last month by the Republican-controlled Legislature—siding with plaintiffs who accused the GOP of violating the state constitution through racial gerrymandering.

Judge Layne Smith of the 2nd Circuit Court said that "the enacted map is unconstitutional because it diminishes African Americans' ability to elect candidates of their choice."

As The Guardian reported, Smith's ruling "dealt specifically with DeSantis' decision to dismantle Florida's 5th Congressional District," which "stretched from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, was 46% Black, and is currently represented by Al Lawson, a Black Democrat."

DeSantis, the outlet noted, "chopped the district up into four districts where Republican candidates would be favored to win." The new map, described as "deeply racist" by experts, would end Lawson's congressional career.

As Jacksonville's The Tributary reported Wednesday:

[Smith] 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.

The ruling came after a Wednesday hearing that saw plaintiffs argue that Gov. Ron DeSantis' congressional map, which eliminated Jacksonville's current Black ability-to-elect district, violated the state constitution.

Equal Ground Florida, one of the civil rights groups that immediately challenged DeSantis' map after it was passed in the face of a sit-in staged by state Democrats, welcomed Smith's ruling.

"The Florida Legislature's redistricting maps in the 1990s and 2010s were similarly struck down, but in those cases, it took six years to get a final ruling," The Tributary reported. "This time, the plaintiffs sought to focus on getting a preliminary injunction redrawing North Florida's districts before the 2022 elections. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs are still seeking a full trial to get the whole map thrown out."

Smith is expected to release a written order by Thursday. DeSantis' office has vowed to appeal. It would first go to the 1st District Court of Appeals and could potentially end up at the Florida Supreme Court.

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