Florida judge blocks Governor DeSantis redistricting map from taking effect before midterm elections


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A Florida judge said he would issue an order this week to prevent a Congressional map approved by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis from going into effect because it scatters black voters.

Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith said he would issue a formal order Thursday or Friday to stop the cards from going into effect during the November midterm elections.

FILE: lorida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Miami’s Freedom Tower, Monday, May 9, 2022, in Miami.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Smith said the order will likely replace the DeSantis card with one of two the Legislature included in a bill and sent to DeSantis in March. The governor vetoed the bill and then recalled the legislature in special session. The Republican-dominated House and Senate chose not to draw a new map and instead adopted the DeSantis map.

The challenge centers on Florida’s 5th congressional district, held by Democratic U.S. Representative Al Lawson. The district stretches from Jacksonville west over 200 miles to Gadsden County and nearly half of its population is black. Lawson said he was “satisfied” with the judge’s decision.


“The judge recognizes that this card is illegal and diminishes the ability of African Americans to elect representatives of their choice,” Lawson said in a statement. “DeSantis is wrong to enact this Republican-leaning map that is in flagrant violation of the United States and state constitutions.”

Lawson said it was essential to keep Congressional District 5 “so that minority voters have a voice at the polls come November.”

Smith said while the DeSantis map is more compact, the issue of allowing black voters to choose their representatives is more important.

“The district that has since been signed into law and signed into law by the governor is dispersing 367,000 African American votes among four different districts,” Smith said in a video call with the two sides. “The African-American population is far from being a plurality or a majority.”

FILE: State Senator Kelli Stargel reviews redistricting maps during a Senate Committee on Redistribution hearing on January 13, 2022 in Tallahassee, Florida.

FILE: State Senator Kelli Stargel reviews redistricting maps during a Senate Committee on Redistribution hearing on January 13, 2022 in Tallahassee, Florida.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Smith said he will release his order as soon as he can so the state can immediately appeal it. DeSantis’ office has confirmed that he will appeal.

“As Justice Smith implied, these complex constitutional legal questions were always going to be decided on appeal,” DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said in an email to Fox News. “We will no doubt appeal his decision and are confident that the constitutional map enacted by the Florida Legislature and enacted into law is going strong. We look forward to defending it.”

The governor’s office drew up a map that it described as neutral on race and party affiliation, and which it said respected both the state and federal constitutions.

The National Republican Redistrict Trust (NRRT) — the main GOP organization tasked with coordinating the party’s redistricting strategy — called the judge’s decision “unsurprising.”

“The judge was bound by a bad precedent set the last decade by a liberal Florida Supreme Court that wrongly stretched beyond the language of the Florida constitution to impose an unconstitutional racial gerrymander,” the executive director said. of NRRT, Adam Kincaid, to Fox News.

“The Voting Rights Act does not require that a district that connects Jacksonville to Tallahassee and Florida should not be required to tax a map that violates the 14th Amendment. Florida’s newly adopted congressional map follows the the state’s fair district criteria, federal law, and the U.S. Constitution. We are confident that Florida’s congressional map will ultimately be upheld on appeal.”


Smith said his decision will be based on the state constitution, not the US Constitution. Qualifying for federal office will run June 13-17.

Paul Steinhauser of Fox News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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