A Florida circuit court judge said Wednesday that he will block part of Gov. Ron DeSantis' proposed congressional redistricting map, agreeing with challengers who argued that it diminished Black voting power in the state.
Judge Layne Smith said he would issue an order blocking the use of the redistricting map around Jacksonville while litigation on the map continues; the order will come as early as Thursday, the judge said, noting he expected the issue would be decided by a higher court on appeal.
This court fight was all but guaranteed when the Florida Legislature — at DeSantis' insistence — dismantled a Black-held congressional seat in northern Florida, spreading Democratic voters across several Republican districts. A number of advocacy groups challenged the map in state court last month.
The seat in question ran from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and regularly elected Black Democrats, who made up a strong majority of Democratic primary voters in the district. DeSantis argued the seat was a racial gerrymander that violated the U.S. Constitution, while state lawmakers had pushed to keep it somewhat intact in an effort to comply with state anti-gerrymandering rules found in the Fair Districts Amendment.
“The enacted map is unconstitutional under the Fair District amendment,” Smith said on Wednesday. “It diminishes African-Americans’ ability to elect the representative of their choice.”
Smith said he would order a plan that redrew the northern Florida districts because it would affect the least number of counties and precincts.
The case is expected to be promptly appealed and eventually reach the state Supreme Court.