This is a breaking story and will be updated.
A new lawsuit alleges Florida’s redistricting plan, passed Thursday on a party-line vote, will reduce Black voting power in North Florida, Orlando and the Tampa Bay area and that the map was drawn to favor Republican candidates.
The suit, filed by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias’ law firm on behalf of Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground Education Fund, League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Rising Together and individual voters, was filed in the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee.
It asks the court to intervene and strike down parts or all of the new congressional map proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor signed the new map into law Friday.
The suit relies on Florida’s Fair Districts standards, which voters approved last decade. Those standards codified parts of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 2 and Section 5 provisions into state law, including a strict requirement that voters from minority groups could not have their voting power diminished.
The lawsuit alleges the new maps diminish Black voting power, intentionally favor the Republican Party, are not compact and don’t follow county, city or geographic boundaries.
Jacksonville Pastor R.L. Gundy, one of the plaintiffs, told the Tributary, “I think it’s essential that we challenge this at every level of the legal system in America.”
The League of Women Voters was also one of the main plaintiffs suing the state last decade when the Florida Supreme Court threw out the state’s Senate and Congressional districts.
In a statement, League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon said that “the League and the other plaintiffs have chosen to not stand by while a rogue governor and a complicit state Legislature make a mockery of Florida’s Constitution and try to silence the votes and voices of hundreds of thousands of Black voters.”
DeSantis and his staff have said they believe complying with that provision would violate the 14th Amendment by improperly taking race into account during redistricting. Courts have not ruled that compliance would violate the U.S. Constitution, but as the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a more conservative turn, DeSantis and his staff have pointed to other decisions as evidence that the courts might strike down the non-diminishment requirement.
DeSantis’ map eliminated Jacksonville’s 5th Congressional District, which spanned from Duval to Gadsden counties, and allowed Black voters to elect their preferred candidates.
The Legislature had passed a different version of that map that kept the district entirely in Duval County but that staff believed would still allow Black voters to elect the candidates of their choice. But DeSantis vetoed that map and replaced the district with one that includes Nassau and Clay counties along with Jacksonville’s Northside and Westside.
DeSantis’ new map also makes Orlando’s 10th Congressional District more Democratic and whiter. The old version saw Black voters make up about half of primary voters in the Democratic primary, but now white voters will make up a plurality in the seat.
In 2020, Donald Trump would’ve won 20 of the state’s 28 congressional districts. In 2018, DeSantis would’ve won 18 of the seats. In 2016, Trump would’ve won 17 seats.
The lawsuit doesn’t yet propose an alternative map.
In a Twitter Spaces conversation, attorney Elias said that the team of lawyers would emphasize trying to get a court order before this fall’s primaries and general elections.
“The fate of democracy in Florida whether we have fair districts or not rests in the courts,” he said.
Both in the 1990s and the 2010s, new court-ordered maps did not take effect until after two election cycles, in 1996 and 2016 respectively.