Eric Holder-backed group sues Florida over Gov. DeSantis’ congressional map

The lawsuit says the redistricting plan violates Florida's Fair Districts amendment.

Minority advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Florida’s congressional map approved this week by the Legislature.

The case will be funded by the National Redistricting Foundation, a group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Plaintiffs represented by prominent Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias filed suit claiming a map (P 0109) submitted by Gov. Ron DeSantis violates Florida’s Fair Districts provisions in the state constitution.

“Republicans across the country tried — and completely failed — to gerrymander their way to a congressional majority,” Holder said. “In response to this defeat, DeSantis has bullied the Legislature into enacting a map that does not allow for a fair electoral contest, and instead draws Republicans an illegitimate and illegal partisan advantage that they have not earned from the voters. And it does so at the expense of Black voters in Florida who are being denied fair representation in Congress.”

A performance analysis by MCI Maps shows the Governor’s cartography draws Florida with 20 congressional districts where Republican Donald Trump won the 2020 Presidential Election and just eight seats where Democrat Joe Biden won. Trump won Florida in 2020 by just three percentage points.

A release from the foundation notes the disparity.

“President Biden won 47.9 percent of the vote statewide in Florida, but he would win just over a quarter of the congressional seats because of the map’s extreme gerrymander,” it states.

The targeting of Black voting districts also plays prominently in the complaint, which was filed in Leon County circuit court.

The lawsuit leans heavily on the language of the Fair Districts amendment to Florida’s Constitution passed in 2010. That prohibits the drawing of maps that favor or disfavor a political party, and it requires the protection of an ability for minority communities to elect candidates of their choice. The complaint says the just-passed map violates both those requirements.

The Fair Districts provisions led the last congressional map drawn by the Legislature to be thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court. In 2015, the court replaced that map with one that had a minority-performing district stretching from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.

The district, Florida’s 5th Congressional District, is represented by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat and a Black man.

DeSantis vetoed prior maps approved by the Legislature for trying to keep that Black access seat in North Florida. He has alleged drawing districts motivated primarily by race violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, and said the North Florida seat won’t meet strict scrutiny in court because it is not even a majority Black district.

His map disassembles Lawson’s district and leaves the Jacksonville area with two Republican-leaning seats.

“He unilaterally declared the Fair Districts amendment unconstitutional,” the complaint alleges. “He vetoed the Legislature’s congressional plan and convened a Special Legislative Session, leaving the Legislature little choice but to consider and pass his own redistricting scheme.”

That overstepped his authority as Governor and the law, the complaint states.

“The DeSantis Plan does not comply with the Fair Districts amendment,” the lawsuit reads. “It does not even purport to.”

Plaintiffs also complain the DeSantis plan pulls 300,000 voters from Florida’s 10th Congressional District, most of them people of color. That seat was also considered by the Florida Senate to be a Black-performing seat. It’s represented now by U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat and a Black woman.

Several organizations and individuals are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Associations include the Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the League of Women Voters Education Fund and Florida Rising Network.

The individual plaintiffs, all Florida residents, include Beatriz Alonso, Ileana Caban, Anaydia Connolly, Pastor Reginald Gundy, Andrea Hershorin, Kisha LinebaughCynthia LippertBrandon Nelson, Gonzalo Alfredo PedrosoPhyllis Wiley, Katie Yarrows and Sylvia Young.

Gundy, Wiley and Young live in CD 5, while Nelson lives in CD 10.

P 0109

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Raheim

    April 22, 2022 at 1:12 pm

    DeSantis is spending millions of taxpayer dollars (billions come June 2023) to force even more racism into politics and education.

    His white wing initiatives and populist pandering are costing us more than anything he can ever pay back via policy.

    • TONY

      April 22, 2022 at 1:34 pm

      So, playing the Race Card, OK then, wouldn’t you say that it is also Racist to purposely draw a District that is mostly Black just so a Black Candidate has the upper hand. The Map shown is the best I have seen in a couple Decades. No Horse Shoe shaped Districts or Donut shaped Districts or Long Thin Districts.

  • marcus

    April 23, 2022 at 7:18 am

    Holder and his pal obama are among the worst of the racists. We are still spinning from the damage these two clowns have caused.

  • Tom

    April 23, 2022 at 10:53 pm

    Holder gave us no charges vs Lois Lerner.
    He’s a joke. He had the weapons sales to Mexico in which we had a killed agent. Just a awful job. His shakedowns of the Banks and mortgage industry is legendary.

  • Reedman Bassoon

    April 24, 2022 at 10:16 am

    By the standards of the rest of the East Coast, Florida’s map is good. The Founding Fathers required 1) equal population, and 2) contiguous. The third requirement, “compact”, has been whittled-away by court decisions that require racial gerrymandering. Computer programs would do a better job making things compact, but it would cause severe job losses amongst political consultants.

Comments are closed.


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