By Caden Pearson
A Florida appeals court ruled Friday to reinstate a redrawn congressional map that Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed ahead of the 2022 midterm elections after it was struck down by a lower court judge on May 11.
DeSantis sought to redraw the north Florida district of Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, arguing the district was gerrymandered based on race and unconstitutional. DeSantis also said his map is neutral on race, The Hill reported.
Lawson’s district links black communities over 200 miles from Jacksonville to Gadsden. The district would, if redrawn, change from being almost half black to between 12 and 25 percent black, according to local media.
Florida has until the June 13 to 17 qualifying period for federal office to finalize its redistricting maps.
DeSantis in March vetoed two of the GOP-controlled Legislature’s proposed congressional district maps. After that, the GOP-dominated House and Senate, instead of drawing new maps, asked DeSantis to do so.
But on May 11, DeSantis’ map was struck down in the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge Layne Smith said DeSantis’ map was “unconstitutional under the Fair District Amendment … because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect the representative of their choice,” the Florida Phoenix reported.
Critics argued in lawsuits that would limit the representation of black people in Washington.
Smith’s ruling was thrown out by the appeals court on Friday.
“While I’m disappointed in today’s decision by the appellate court to reinstate DeSantis’ unconstitutional map, I am confident that the Florida Supreme Court will soon take over this issue and protect the rights of Black voters in North Florida,” Lawson said in a statement obtained by The Hill.
A number of voting groups filed lawsuits against the new congressional map in Tallahassee last month (pdf), including the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund, Florida Rising Together, and several individual Florida voters.
At the time of being blocked by Judge Smith, a spokesperson for DeSantis told Newsweek in a statement that “these complex constitutional matters of law were always going to be decided at the appellate level.”
“We will undoubtedly be appealing his ruling and are confident the constitutional map enacted by the Florida Legislature and signed into law passes legal muster,” DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said.
The map will likely face a Supreme Court challenge as to its constitutionality.