Florida appeals court ruling tossing congressional map

While the state Supreme Court buy the Gov. DeSantis administration's equal protection argument?

The fate of Florida’s congressional map now lies in the hands of the state Supreme Court.

Secretary of State Cord Byrd’s Office has officially appealed a circuit court ruling, one that declared the map drawn by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office wrongly diminished Black voting power in North Florida.

Leon Circuit Judge Lee Marsh on Saturday struck down the map and ordered that the Florida Legislature must craft new cartography that complies with the Fair Districts amendment in the state constitution.

“Not only is there no specific district under which this Court could evaluate whether racial gerrymandering occurred,” Marsh wrote, “but Defendants also lack standing to raise a racial gerrymandering challenge in the first place.”

But Byrd signaled immediately that the state would defend the map and appeal Marsh’s decision.

“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.”

A notice of appeal filed with the state offers no specific argument for the Florida Supreme Court different from what attorneys for Byrd and the Florida Legislature laid out in Marsh’s courtroom. But filing the appeal triggers an automatic stay on Marsh’s ruling until the state’s high court can weigh in on the matter.

The central conflict over the map has largely concerned the elimination of a Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville district in North Florida. Represented for three terms in Congress by former U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat, the district spanned largely African American communities, including Gadsden County, Florida’s only majority Black county, and downtown Jacksonville.

While the Florida Supreme Court established that district in 2015, Justices ruled the Florida Legislature, in creating a different map in 2012, had violated the Fair Districts amendment.

When the Florida Legislature set out on creating a new map last year following a decennial census, lawmakers initially preserved the configuration of the Lawson district, adjusting only for population.

But DeSantis derided the district as an “unconstitutional gerrymander.” While lawmakers initially called that a “novel legal theory” and moved ahead with the district, DeSantis promised a veto. Lawmakers ultimately approved a different Black access seat based entirely in Duval County, one where analysts said the choice of Black voters would prevail in elections a majority of the time, and offered a map preserving Lawson’s district as a backup if the courts rejected DeSantis’ theory.

DeSantis said that plan didn’t go far enough and vetoed the cartography. Ultimately, his office created its own map, one that left no seats in North Florida where Black voters controlled the election — and consequently a map where no Democrats won election in North Florida.

Byrd’s Office has held to its theory, though plaintiffs challenging the map suggested in court that opinions of the Lawson district hardly matter now. The current map has no such district.

But the Fair Districts amendment in Florida’s Constitution prohibits diminishment of any ability of racial minorities to elect a Representative of their choice. Minority groups, led by the Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, said the state remains bound by the amendment approved by voters in 2010.

Marsh agreed, and also suggested in court that finding for the map would make his the first court in America to question the constitutionality of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Byrd, who voted for DeSantis’ map as a state lawmaker and against the map DeSantis vetoed, has held to the argument adhering to the Fair Districts amendment runs afoul of the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Attorneys for both sides of the redistricting case reached a stipulation agreement in lieu of a trial before Marsh. There, plaintiffs agreed to only challenge north Florida cartography and abandon arguments against lines statewide. The state acknowledged the elimination of Lawson’s seat diminished Black voting power but held that lawmakers could not keep the district as it was drawn with race as the primary motivation.

DeSantis and Byrd are now counting on the Florida Supreme Court being more sympathetic to that argument. Of note, five of seven Justices on the high court were appointed by DeSantis.

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].


  • Earl Pitts "The All Knowing, All Seeing, Ma-Ha Earlskiee" American

    September 5, 2023 at 10:09 am

    Again America,
    Tallahassee Judge (and Dook 4 Brains Leftist) Lee Marsh has a Judges sense (or more likley its based on more hard evidence than a “Judges Sense”) ……. that Federal District Judge (and Dook 4 Brains Leftist) Robert Hinklel is stepping down from the bench (retirement) and the left is desperate to get a Dook 4 Brains Leftist waiting in the wings for appointment to Hinkel’s vacancy
    So this outragesly illegal rulling by Judge Lee Marsh of course wont stand …. BUT ….. and theres always a but with Dook 4 Brains Leftists …. the recent rulling by Marsh is a *** “Hey lookey here: Lee Marsh is willing to throw jurisprudence into the ditch and rule in the lefty’s favor 98% of the time *** ….. it will be exactly as if Hinkle never retired!!!!
    Desantis and every political savy person on the left and the right know everything above is 100% true …. BUT ….. they are reluctant to pubically air their greviences over the leftist dirty trickster’s manipulation of the Federal judicial system in Florida because it will paint them in a true (but unfavorable) position of being weak and powerless to stop the instalation of your new (Dook 4 Brains Leftist) Federal Judge Lee Marsh.
    And about 100% more important than a new Lefty Federal Judge being shoved down Florida’s throat (or up Florida’s no loobe backside if you swing that way) is this 100% indisputable fact:
    “This my loyal fans of Earl Pitts American is why Florida and America is totally blessed to have me. Because I will tell you the truth ( as in my above wisdom ) regardless of who’s toes get stepped on”.
    So to wrap it up:
    Lee Marsh is going to take Hinkle’s place and there’s not a darn thing any conservative ( even the All Knowing, All Seeing, All Everything, Earl Pitts American ) can or will do about it.
    My role here is to put the truth in front of you. I, Earl Pitts American, have no seceret power to stop this 100% abuse of justice and 100% abuse of the Federal Judicial System from happening.
    Federal Judge Lee Marsh. My Big ‘Ole 8utt!!!,

  • Earl Pitts "The Big Voice on The Right" American

    September 5, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    Oh look America,
    Some pea brain sap Dook 4 Brains Leftist got his precious little feelings hurt and is making up hatefull lies about me, Earl Pitts “The Big Voice On The Right” American.
    Sorry but Not Sorry about your precious whittle whittle feelings nerd boy “Dook 4 Brains Leftist”
    Na Na Na…Na Na you just got spanked by Earl.

  • Sonja Fitch

    September 6, 2023 at 6:01 am

    Of course Desantis, the sexist racist loser is not above the law! Define Equal!!

    • Rick Whitaker

      September 6, 2023 at 11:54 am

      sonja, don’t bother to respond to that loser, earl pitts. he is beneath us normal people and therefore doesn’t deserve a response. i cut him off and he freaked. what a loser.

  • tom palmer

    September 6, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    Let us see how intellectually honest the Florida Supreme Court is.

  • My Take

    September 6, 2023 at 9:00 pm

    I don’t know whether DeSScamus outriģht hates black people but he sure wants them powerless.
    Would he take us back to Jim Crow, or the Black Laws (serfdom), or slavery.

Comments are closed.


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