With Florida’s congressional map in place, judge says plaintiffs need a new argument fast

FLORDIA REDISTRICTING (6)
Will the federal courts consider swapping cartography before the midterms?

A judge said plaintiffs calling for a court-instated congressional map need to make a new case now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed one into law.

“No later than April 29, Plaintiffs and Intervenor Plaintiffs must show cause why the court should not dismiss the case as moot,” wrote U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor.

The order to show cause comes days after attorneys for Secretary of State Laurel Lee called for the case to be dismissed.

Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now and five Florida citizens in March filed a complaint in U.S. District Court. In the original complaint, attorneys argued the Legislature and DeSantis would likely not reach an agreement over congressional cartography. At that time, DeSantis had made clear he would veto maps crafted by legislative staff and passed in the House and Senate.

“As a result, there is a significant likelihood that Florida’s political branches will fail to reach consensus to enact a lawful congressional district plan in time to be used in the upcoming 2022 elections,” the original lawsuit read.

But since that time, DeSantis has vetoed the maps. He then called the Legislature back into Session last week, and lawmakers passed a proposal drawn by DeSantis Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Kelly.

The Governor signed legislation drawing up 28 new districts on Friday. That means there is now a map that will produce the correct number of Representatives and all districts have been balanced in population to a single person.

“Now that Florida’s outmoded congressional districts have been superseded by properly apportioned congressional districts, there is no longer any controversy, and this Court cannot provide the Plaintiffs and Plaintiff-Intervenors the relief they seek,” read a brief from Lee’s attorneys.

That relief was a new, court-drawn map.

That said, the federal case also criticized DeSantis for involving himself in the mapmaking process at all.

“The Governor has repeatedly and inappropriately inserted himself into the congressional redistricting process, and with each intervention, the Legislature’s proposed maps have deviated further and further from the required constitutional standards,” the original complaint asserts.

It’s possible plaintiffs this week will argue the map produced by DeSantis’ staff still should be replaced for the 2022 midterms, though many legal experts believe it could take months or years to make an argument that those maps violate state or federal law.

The Florida Supreme Court in 2015 threw out maps approved by the Legislature for violating the state constitution’s Fair Districts amendment. But that took place three years and two election cycles after the lawmaker-approved maps were implemented.

A lawsuit has already been filed in state courts, funded by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation, that alleges DeSantis’ map runs afoul of the same constitutional provisions.

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]


One comment

  • Case Closed

    April 25, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    ““The Governor has repeatedly and inappropriately inserted himself into the congressional redistricting process. . . .’ That’s patent nonsense from a passel of grousers whom the people of the state have repeatedly AND APPROPRIATELY rejected as their representatives and now find the only avenue to reality for their power dreams is through the courts. The governor has as much right as any citizen to a submit a map, he did, and the legislature approved it.

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