A state judge is set to block Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ congressional map, which was drawn by the Republican-led legislature, Politico reports.
DeSantis personally lobbied the legislature to approve the map, which added to the number of Republican-held seats in the state and would dismantle a district in north Florida that is held by Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.), a well-known Black Democrat.
Circuit Judge J. Layne Smith, a DeSantis appointee, noted during the hearing on Wednesday that arguments stating that the map violated the state Constitution were “persuasive” because it “diminishes the ability of African Americans to elect candidates of their choice.” He also added that he intended to draw a congressional map that would keep Lawson’s district intact.
After hearing the judge’s ruling, Lawson lauded the decision, saying he’s optimistic “future courts” will use his state as an example.
“DeSantis is wrong for enacting this Republican-leaning map that is in clear violation of the U.S. and state constitutions,” Lawson said in a statement. “It is critical to maintain congressional district five so minority voters have a voice at the ballot box in November.”
John Devaney, an Orlando attorney representing the groups, argued at the hearing that the new map shifted roughly 370,000 Black voters from one district to four districts.
Devaney also noted the court needed to immediately block the map through an injunction instead of waiting for a trial which would have allowed the map to remain in place.
Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said the state would appeal the ruling.
“As Judge Smith implied, these complex constitutional matters of law were always going to be decided at the appellate level,” Fenske’s email read. “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. We look forward to defending it.”
Since its inception, the newly drawn map faced several legal challenges including a possible violation of the state’s Fair Districts standards, which are ”voter-approved anti-gerrymandering amendments in the Florida Constitution.”
In 2022, because of its growing population, Florida gained an additional congressional seat, for a total of 28. Republicans currently have a 16-11 advantage. The map that was initially approved by the legislature last month would have increased the GOP advantage by two seats, as EBONY previously reported.
Florida’s primary is Aug. 23 and qualifying starts on June 13.