A Florida appeals court ruled against an attempt to use new court-ordered congressional maps in the state’s 2022 elections.
The 1st District Court of Appeal found that a lower court’s injunction was “unlawful on its face” because it not only struck down Florida’s redistricting maps, but it ordered the state to use new ones.
Injunctions, the appellate court ruled, should preserve the status quo, which in this case would’ve meant only striking down the new maps signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Legislature then would’ve had the onus to attempt to try again at redistricting, or under federal law, the state might have tried to have all 28 districts elected on an at-large statewide basis.
The opinion does not address whether DeSantis’ redistricting maps are constitutional or not, and it doesn’t address whether the state is required to maintain a Black ability-to-elect district in Jacksonville.
The unanimous opinion was written by Judge A.S. Tanenbaum, a DeSantis appointee who previously represented the Florida House and the Department of State, both of which were sued in the case. The opinion focused narrowly on whether the court used an appropriate injunction when it ordered new maps.
The voting-rights groups who brought the original lawsuit, including Black Voters Matter, have also asked 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 Supreme Court, however, has not yet agreed whether it will hear that appeal, and the plaintiffs’ experts previously said today was the deadline to implement a new map.
The lawsuit was filed almost immediately after DeSantis signed the Florida redistricting plan.
Circuit Judge J. Layne Smith, who was appointed to his position by DeSantis, put the case on a fast track, holding a hearing and finding that “the enacted map is unconstitutional because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice.”
After the state appealed, he lifted an automatic stay on his order. Friday’s decision found Smith improperly lifted the stay and that his initial order was also likely unlawful.
Smith’s court-ordered map would have maintained a Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee district that experts said allows Black voters to elect their candidate of choice to Congress, while the enacted map dismantles that district and replaces it with North Florida districts that would favor Republicans.
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.
The deadline to qualify for office is June 17, and then the primary election takes place Aug. 23. Ballots must be sent to overseas military voters by July 9.