The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday declined to rule on a lawsuit challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) redistricting map, throwing it back to Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal that ruled in favor of the map.
A state circuit court had originally blocked the map before the decision was appealed to the court of appeals, where the lower court’s ruling was stayed. The map promises to generate 20 red-leaning and eight blue-leaning congressional districts. The district lines will serve the state for the next ten years, shaping national politics.
Democrats had claimed the map violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act because it does not shape districts by race. The Voting Rights Act was passed under the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, who formed the predicates of identity politics, according to Christopher Caldwell.
“The map they’re proposing would violate the Voting Rights Act and clearly goes after African American voters. So it’s more of the same,” Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) alleged. “They depend on suppressing African American votes to win seats, and it’s disgraceful.”
Countering the Democrat’s argument, DeSantis’s General Counsel, Ryan Newman, argued race should not take legal precedent over the Fourteenth Amendment provision of equal protection. “Because of these adjustments, the new proposed apportionment plan eliminates the federal constitutional infirmities identified by the governor and improves on several metrics relative to the maps passed by the Legislature,” Newman wrote.
The pro-Republican map effectively eliminates Democrat districts near Jacksonville and Orlando by cutting them in half, an action that Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL) claimed would split his district made up of many black individuals and, therefore, should remain combined.
It was a long process for DeSantis to orient the maps in Republicans’ favor — even though Republicans control both legislative chambers. Establishment Republicans, such as House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) and Senate President Wilton Simpson (R), originally opposed the maps but eventually gave up after DeSantis called a special session. The map was then passed without further delay.
Redistricting expert and senior editor of the Cook Political Report David Wasserman credited DeSantis for saving Republicans from huge national redistricting losses. Republicans were expected to dominate the 2022 redistricting cycle but essentially broke even.
The case is Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Inc v. Cord Byrd, No. SC22-685 in the Florida Supreme Court.