Judge strikes down Florida Congressional map, orders Legislative redraw
Florida's prior congressional map (left) compared to its current version. Note the erasure of Congressional District 5, among other changes. Image via Equal Ground and the Fair District Coalition.

Equal Ground Fair Districts Coalition
Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court is inevitable.

A Circuit Court judge in Leon County has ruled in the favor of plaintiffs in a redistricting case, which means that pending appeal, the Legislature may be tasked with drawing a non-deficient congressional map.

The ruling from Judge J. Lee Marsh, first reported by the @MappingFL account on X, “declares the enacted map unconstitutional and enjoin(s) the Secretary of State from using that map in future congressional elections. This Court will return the matter to the Legislature to enact a new map which complies with the Florida Constitution.”

Secretary of State Cord Byrd will appeal: “We disagree with the trial court’s decision. This is why the stipulation contemplates an appeal with pass through jurisdiction to the Florida Supreme Court which we will be pursuing.”

At issue: the elimination of the 5th Congressional District, which once went from Jacksonville to the Tallahassee area along Interstate 10, one of the most controversial parts of last year’s redistricting saga.

Once a district that allowed Black Democrats Corrine Brown and Al Lawson to compete, with the latter holding the seat from 2016 to 2022, the redistricting efforts signed off on by Gov. Ron DeSantis eliminated that seat and all Black representation in North Florida.

The judge rules that “plaintiffs have shown that the Enacted Plan results in the diminishment of Black voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution,” and that “all of the districts that replaced Benchmark CD-5 (Enacted CD-2, CD-3, CD-4, and CD-5) are majority white in voter registration, that white voters cast the majority of votes in both primary and general elections.”

The judge also rejects the idea that a Black-performing district is “gerrymandering,” writing that “not only is there no specific district under which this Court could evaluate whether racial gerrymandering occurred, but Defendants also lack standing to raise a racial gerrymandering challenge in the first place.”

Moreover, the ruling refers to a Black-performing Duval County district vetoed by the Governor as Congressional Plan 8019, “which included a Duval County-only district that the Chair of the House Congressional Redistricting Committee described as ‘very visually different than the benchmark district’ but ‘still a protected black-performing district.’”

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the Legislature’s maps that maintained a Black access district, telling them to “pass something that will get my signature.” The Legislature ultimately left it to the Governor’s staff to draw a “race-blind” map taken up and approved during Special Session.

The ruling rejects canards about the former map being irregularly shaped, noting “the district’s length is largely a factor of North Florida’s rural geography and sparse population. Indeed, well before the East-West CD-5 ever existed, Florida’s congressional plan from 2002 to 2012 included a district that spanned from Leon County to Duval County.”

The current congressional map includes 20 districts where Republican Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election and just eight where Democrat Joe Biden won. But more important to the lawsuit brought by the Equal Ground Education Fund and other plaintiffs, it also eliminates two seats where Black voters determine the outcome of elections, including Lawson’s.

We have reached out to DeSantis’ spox Jeremy Redfern for comment from the Governor. We will add if we get it.

The Florida Democrats celebrated the lower court ruling.

“This decision is vindication for Black voters in North Florida,” said FDP Chair Nikki Fried, “who had their representation unfairly and illegally stripped from them as part of Ron’s political games. We applaud Judge Marsh for a fair decision that defended both the rights of the people and the Florida Constitution.”

“Ron’s racist congressional map was an affront to democracy and could never be allowed to stand. We look forward to an expedited appeals process and a new map in advance of the 2024 elections — one that gives Black voters in North Florida the representation and respect they deserve.”

The Duval County Democrats also hailed the ruling Saturday.

“We applaud Judge Marsh’s ruling blocking the use of Governor DeSantis’s gerrymandered North Florida congressional map,” said chairman Daniel Henry.

“From the beginning, we have advocated for fair maps that protect residents’ rights to have a voice in the U.S. House of Representatives. This ruling reaffirms our belief that the maps passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature, last year, illegally reduced Black voters’ electoral power and silenced their voices,” Henry added.

“It’s now incumbent on the Florida Legislature, to embrace this ruling, follow the state’s Fair Districts Amendment, and draw a fair and equitable map that restores the voting power of black voters.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • The governor created this problem

    September 2, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    This was inevitable, and is why the Legislature passed its original plan which was vetoed. Sadly the Legislature didn’t stay with its preferred plan. Hopefully it will now be implemented forthwith.

  • Hung Wiil

    September 2, 2023 at 4:45 pm

    What does SB 90, Amendment 4, Andrew Warren being fired, abortion restrictions all have in common? Some lower court putz head ruled against DeSantis, then higher courts overturned and DeSantis prevailed. Same thing here. DeSantis . . . making maps great again.

    • MH/Duuuval

      September 4, 2023 at 10:46 am

      Ron expects victory on appeal to the Florida SC and possibly victory on additional appeal to the US SC.

      However, the recent US SC decisions in LA and AL have muddied the water.

      Ron’s goal is to keep intact his gerrymandering through the 2024 elections — so he can slide into the Presidency with a majority in the House.

      Ron cares little for one person, one vote.

  • Gary Salters

    September 2, 2023 at 10:14 pm

    Good news but don’t mean a damn thing until a map is drawn and approved see what the racist fascist white people of Alabama is doing it is going to take a progressive movement to win back to voting rights that the racist 5 white judges and the one black uncle Tom judge took away

  • Marykaye Rankin

    September 4, 2023 at 11:23 pm

    If “red” states are so confident they will win on merit, WHY are these states not allowing FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS?? Florida has a substantial black population, it is not feasible that these people would not vote given the proper opportunity!!
    Louisiana and Alabama are even worse!! The TWO states with the HIGHEST POPULATION OF BLACK VOTERS, and both states are REFUSING to enstate TWO black voting districts! I would think that THREE would be appropriate! They want just ONE!!! 🤬

Comments are closed.


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