Voting-rights groups suing the state over Florida’s congressional redistricting map have asked the state Supreme Court to ensure elections officials prepare for both Gov. Ron DeSantis’ map and a court-ordered map while appeals play out.
A 2nd Judicial Circuit judge in Tallahassee had already ordered a new map and he had lifted an automatic stay on his order, but that decision was overturned by the 1st District Court of Appeal, which found the order likely unlawful.
Last week, the department of state had asked county election officials to prepare for the possibility of either DeSantis’ or the court-ordered map going into effect, but the appeals court ruling meant they could prepare for only DeSantis’ map.
The voting-rights groups who brought the original lawsuit, including Black Voters Matter, want the Florida Supreme Court to lift the stay and urge elections officials to continue down the path of preparing for either version of a congressional map while the high court decides on a full appeal.
The plaintiffs have cited elections supervisors who said a new map needs to be in place by Friday or else it will be too late to change maps.
The court-ordered map would affect five North Florida congressional districts, keeping a Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee district where Black voters can elect their candidate of choice. DeSantis’ map, which he proposed to the Legislature after vetoing earlier maps, would redistribute those Black voters across several districts, none of which would have enough Black voters to allow them to elect their preferred candidates.
The voting-rights groups filed a lawsuit against the whole map, but they narrowed their request for an immediate injunction on the North Florida districts.
Circuit Judge J. Layne Smith, who was appointed to his position by DeSantis, agreed with the plaintiffs, finding “the enacted map is unconstitutional because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice.”
The 1st District Court of Appeal, however, found his order inappropriate because it “frustrated the status quo.”
Secretary of State Cord Byrd argued Monday that it’s “already too late to provide any relief for the 2022 election cycle.”