Florida Judge Blocks Challenged Congressional Districts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a state trial court judge in Florida blocked some of the state’s new congressional districts while a lawsuit challenging the map plays out. The map, which was enacted in April after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vetoed initial plans passed by the Florida Legislature, dismantled the Black-performing 5th Congressional District despite pushback from legislators and the public. Soon after DeSantis’ map was passed, a lawsuit was filed challenging the map, specifically the new 5th Congressional District, for violating the Fair Districts Amendment of the Florida Constitution by diminishing the ability of Black Floridians to elect their candidates of choice. The parties sought a preliminary injunction blocking the use of the new 5th Congressional District for the 2022 election cycle while the case moves forward to a full trial.

In a hearing today on the motion to temporarily block the map, Judge Layne Smith ruled from the bench (meaning he gave an oral ruling at the end of the hearing) that the congressional map likely violates the Fair Districts Amendment “because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice” in northern Florida. In support of his conclusion, Smith pointed to the fact that the Florida Supreme Court had previously approved the prior Black-performing 5th Congressional District, but DeSantis’ map splits Black voters into four districts and clearly lowers their ability to elect candidates of their choice. Smith ordered that DeSantis’ map be replaced with a remedial map drawn by the plaintiffs’ expert that gives Black voters the chance to elect the candidates of their choice in northern Florida. The judge plans to enter a written order formalizing his oral ruling by tomorrow, after which the state can appeal his decision and the order will be paused on appeal.

Watch the hearing here.

Learn more about the case here.