Intervening plaintiffs drop federal case against Florida’s redistricting plan

FLORDIA REDISTRICTING (2)
But a lawsuit seeking to block Gov. DeSantis' map continues in state courts.

Intervening plaintiffs have dropped a federal lawsuit regarding Florida’s redistricting process. But litigation remains ongoing in Florida’s circuit courts.

The complaint against the state, filed by Common Cause of Florida, Fair Districts Now and individuals in the state, had alleged Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature would not be able to usher a congressional map into law and asked judges to step in.

But the Legislature in a Special Session this month took up and passed cartography crafted by DeSantis’ staff, and the Governor on Friday signed that map (P 0109).

“The specific relief from malapportionment sought by Intervenor-Plaintiffs in their Complaint is no longer required,” reads a brief filed in U.S. District Court.

Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit filed a case in mid-March, after the Governor had promised to veto maps passed by the Legislature. He did so shortly after the lawsuit was filed. That was followed by weeks of negotiations on a map, but legislative leaders ultimately deferred to the Governor, despite adopting a different position during the regular Legislative Session regarding how the Fair Districts language in Florida’s Constitution should be applied.

Plaintiffs had asked a panel of federal judges to implement an alternative map. Lawyers for the chief plaintiffs had called for the use of a state Senate-approved map, while the Elias Law Group, led by prominent Democratic attorney Marc Elias, as an intervening plaintiff submitted a map drawn by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere.

Now that a map approved by the Legislature has been signed, plaintiffs acknowledge the argument that Florida has no map to govern the midterms no longer applies.

The federal lawsuit came after a decennial redistricting process that significantly deviated from state norms. No Governor in modern times in Florida has vetoed a Legislature-produced map or submitted his own cartography.

But another lawsuit in state courts, also being handled by Elias, continues to make the case DeSantis’ map violates the law. Plaintiffs in that case, which was filed in Leon County circuit court, called for a judge to block the implementation of DeSantis’ map.

That complaint was filed by Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the League of Women Voters Education Fund, Florida Rising Network and individual plaintiffs and is backed financially by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation.

It argues DeSantis ignored provisions of the Fair Districts amendment, passed by Florida voters in 2010, prohibiting diminishment of the ability for minority communities to elect representatives of their choice. DeSantis’ map disassembled the old Florida’s 5th Congressional District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, and reduced the Black voting population in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

The state court lawsuit also argues the map was illegally crafted to benefit a political party, producing 20 seats of 28 where Republicans are favored to win, compared to the 16 Florida seats Republicans hold now.

The Governor has argued the outgoing configurations of CD 5 and CD 10, implemented by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015, were drawn with racial motivation in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

That’s the argument DeSantis made for vetoing maps produced by the Legislature that attempted to preserve Lawson’s district as a Black-controlled seat.

The federal case is the second one to be dropped regarding Florida’s redistricting case. A group of individual plaintiffs, again represented by Elias, filed a case in March that also criticized DeSantis’ meddling in the redistricting process. That case was dropped shortly before the Special Session where a map was passed.

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

  • Jerry M

    April 29, 2022 at 5:29 am

    It seems Elias et al like SOME gerrymandering–cheating for a good cause, I guess is the way they see it.

Comments are closed.


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