A three-judge panel agreed Tuesday to allow voters to sue Florida’s secretary of state, claiming the state’s congressional redistricting plan discriminated against Black voters.

The opinion said the group of five voters and three organizations, including Common Cause Florida, FairDistricts Now and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, had made a sufficient allegation that could constitute racial discrimination if true.

This federal lawsuit, alleging the state violated the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, is separate from another lawsuit alleging the state also violated the Florida Constitution’s Fair Districts provisions.

This won’t affect Tuesday’s elections, the first in 30 years where Jacksonville won’t have a congressional district designed to protect Black voters’ ability to elect their preferred candidate. This decision just means the plaintiffs will be able to continue their case, trying to prove the state intentionally discriminated against Black voters.

“First, the congressional districting plan negatively impacts Black voters in Florida because it destroys or diminishes two opportunity or crossover districts,” the judges said in the opinion. “Second, Florida has a history of suppressing Black voters. Third, there were departures from procedural norms.”

The opinion details how the Legislature initially rejected Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed plan and approved two maps, but after DeSantis rejected “those maps while making it clear that his map was based on racial considerations because he opposed any proposal that preserved CD-5”, he again proposed his map and the Legislature accepted it without amendments.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor dissented from most of the opinion, saying he didn’t think the plaintiffs had made strong enough allegations to prove intentional racial discrimination.

He did agree with the other two judges, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan and U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rogers, that DeSantis shouldn’t be a defendant in the case.

Andrew Pantazi edits and reports for The Tributary. He previously worked as a reporter at The Florida Times-Union where he helped organize the newsroom's union with the NewsGuild-CWA. He is a Jacksonville...