A Florida circuit court judge said on Wednesday that he intends to issue an order preventing a new congressional map backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis from going into effect, because it would illegally suppress Black voters in the northern part of the state, CNN reported.
Judge J. Layne Smith, who was appointed by the Republican DeSantis in 2020, sided with Democrats and voting rights groups, stating that the map violates the state constitution “because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect the representative of their choice.”
The order could come as early as Thursday, CNN reported, although the state is expected to appeal the decision.
The map promoted by DeSantis erased two districts represented by Black Democrats, including the 5th, currently represented by Al Lawson. That district is 49% Black, and the two new ones created by the governor’s map in northern Florida would only have a Black population of between 12% and 25%, according to Florida Politics.
DeSantis, when promoting his map, said that the 5th Congressional District was unconstitutional because it is spread out over 150 miles to connect from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, CNN reported.
But the judge said the 5th District had historical roots in Black communities and that Florida’s Supreme Court had set a precedent in the previous decade when it set the boundaries of that district after years of legal struggles.
Smith added that the state constitution specifically mandates that a reapportionment plan cannot diminish the ability of minority residents “to elect representatives of their choice.”
The intervention by DeSantis in the redistricting process was unprecedented for a governor in modern times, according to The Hill.
He even vetoed a map approved by the GOP-led Legislature that had maintained the 5th District in north Florida and insisted it pass his own version.
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