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Florida advocates, voters challenge DeSantis’ congressional maps

DeSantis vetoed earlier maps and demanded state lawmakers pass his version of the congressional plans.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Feb. 24.Tristan Wheelock / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

A group of Florida voters and advocates including Black Voters Matter and the League of Women Voters of Florida filed a lawsuit Friday, challenging the state’s new congressional map, arguing it violates anti-gerrymandering provisions in the state constitution.

The plaintiffs have asked the court to invalidate the map and order or choose a new map that complies with the law.

The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature approved the new map on Thursday, after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed state lawmakers preferred — and less gerrymandered — congressional maps earlier this year.

State lawmakers had sought to comply with the state's "Fair Districts" constitutional amendments, which bars legislators from drawing maps to secure partisan gains or deny minority voters representation. DeSantis demanded the Legislature dismantle a Black-held congressional seat in northern Florida, arguing it violated the U.S. Constitution. The legislature complied with DeSantis' demand through shouted protests from Democrats who shut down the Legislature for an hour in protest. The map eliminates three Democratic seats and adds four Republican districts.

The plaintiffs are supported by the National Redistricting Foundation, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democrat.

“DeSantis has bullied the legislature into enacting a map that does not allow for a fair electoral contest, and instead draws Republicans an illegitimate and illegal partisan advantage that they have not earned from the voters," Holder said in a statement. "And it does so at the expense of Black voters in Florida who are being denied fair representation in Congress."

Such litigation was expected and referred to by Republicans on the House floor on Thursday, as they sought to defend the maps.

“We are not mindless automatons. We don’t do this because we were bullied. We do this because we think it is right,” said state Rep. Randy Fine. “Today, we pass maps that are constitutional, and they will be litigated, and we will learn whether the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reigns supreme over the Florida state Constitution. That is the discussion at hand.”