A number of voting rights groups in the state of Florida have filed a legal motion to stop the enforcement of congressional redistricting maps that were designed and signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), saying that the maps will diminish the voting power of Black residents.
The groups filing the motion include the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matters Capacity Building Institute, the Equal Ground Education Fund, Florida Rising Together, and various state residents affected by the changes. They allege that the new maps are in violation of the “Fair Districts Amendment” in the state constitution, which prohibits political maps from being drawn and instituted if they disenfranchise marginalized communities or purposely favor one political party over another. They are asking a state judge to invalidate the maps for use in this year’s midterm elections.
The maps have been widely criticized for cutting the number of Black-majority congressional districts in the state in half, from four districts to two under the new guidelines.
The constitutional provision being cited in the lawsuit states that “no apportionment plan or individual district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.” It also prohibits the drawing of districts “with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice.”
Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, released a statement explaining why her group and others were filing the motion.
“The League and the other plaintiffs have chosen to not stand by while a rogue governor and a complicit state Legislature make a mockery of Florida’s Constitution and try to silence the votes and voices of hundreds of thousands of Black voters,” Scoon said, adding that the “shameful refusal to protect” Black voters’ rights by the Florida Supreme Court also “harms every citizen in the state, regardless of race.”
The motion, filed in a Leon County court earlier this week, notes that the governor’s reorganization of the Fifth Congressional District in the state “cracks Black voters among four majority-white districts, thus diminishing their voting strength.”
Black lawmakers have previously spoken out against the new maps. Before the maps were signed into law, state Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat who is running for Congress in one of the affected districts, decried DeSantis’s actions as blatantly racist.
“The fact he has the gall to do something like this clearly shows what he thinks of minorities and Black voters,” Bracy said. “It’s stunning in this day and age he would try to wipe out Black representation.”
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, the Democrat who currently represents Florida’s Fifth Congressional District, similarly blasted the new maps drawn by DeSantis’s office.
The proposed maps are “a continued scheme by DeSantis to erase minority access districts in Congress in order to create more seats for the Republican Party,” Lawson said.