Florida judge strikes down congressional district map for disenfranchising Black voters News
Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Florida judge strikes down congressional district map for disenfranchising Black voters

Florida Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh declared Florida’s most recent congressional map unconstitutional on Saturday because it weakens Black voters’ ability to elect representatives of their choice. The case is in the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit, in and for Leon County, Florida, a state court in northern Florida.

Marsh ruled that the redistricting map violates Article III, Section 20 of the Florida Constitution (Fair Districts Amendment) by diminishing the ability of Black voters in North Florida to elect representatives of their choice. Marsh noted that “the Legislature cannot eliminate majority-minority districts or weaken other historically performing minority districts where doing so would actually diminish a minority group’s ability to elect its preferred candidates.” Then, Marsh found that the plaintiffs, individual voters and voter participation organizations, demonstrated that the map “weakens (or in this case, actually eliminates) Black voters’ ability to elect” candidates of their choice. Ultimately, Marsh concluded that “by dismantling a congressional district that enabled Black voters to elect candidates of their choice under the previous plan, the Enacted Plan violates” the Florida Constitution. Marsh declared the map unconstitutional and blocked the Florida Secretary of State from using it in future elections.

Marsh also rejected the state’s defense that the Fair Districts Amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. The Fair Districts Amendment prohibits redistricting plans drawn to diminish minority voters’ ability to elect representatives. The state argued that this Amendment would require it to implement a racial gerrymander in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Marsh rejected this argument and found that the state did not have standing to raise this claim.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the redistricting plan, SB 2-C, in April 2022. After the plans enactment, the plaintiffs sued, alleging that the plan “does not comply with the Fair Districts Amendment. It does not even purport to.” The plaintiffs stated that the governor’s plan would cut the number of Black districts in half, from four to two, and give the Republican party a disproportionate advantage in twenty out of twenty-eight districts.