Progressive Group Sues State of Florida over Redistricting Maps

Democracy Docket, a self-described “progressive” voting advocacy group, has sued the Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and Attorney General Ashley Moody for not having an approved congressional redistricting map finalized months ahead of candidate qualifying.

The group is asking the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County to “assume jurisdiction” and establish a schedule for map development citing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ intention to veto maps approved by the Florida Legislature.

“There is thus little doubt that the Legislature’s proposed congressional districting plan will be vetoed by the Governor. And given this history, there is little hope that the Governor and the Legislature will overcome their differences. The legislative supporters of this plan do not have enough votes to override a veto, and there is not enough time left in the legislative session to bridge the deep division between the state’s political branches: the current legislative session ends today, March 11. As a result, Florida will be left without a congressional districting plan to remedy its malapportioned districts.”

“Given the high likelihood of impasse, this Court should intervene to protect the constitutional rights of Plaintiffs and voters across the state. This Court should assume jurisdiction now and establish a schedule that will enable it to adopt a remedial congressional districting plan in the near-certain event that the political branches fail to do so.”

According to the complaint filed in court, the group said “Florida needs a new congressional map, immediately.”

The group continued in describing their lack of faith in political unity for the sake of approved redistricting maps.

“There is no reasonable prospect that Florida’s political branches will reach consensus and enact a lawful congressional redistricting plan in time for the upcoming 2022 elections. The Governor has threatened to veto any congressional map that contains the configuration of Congressional District 5 (“CD-5”) currently present in the Legislature’s proposed congressional districting plan, or any similar configuration, on the baseless ground that CD-5 is an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. To make that point, he petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion in support of his claim—an invitation that the court declined to accept.”

In order to approve new maps, the Florida Legislature has to agree, and the governor has to sign off on it. DeSantis has, however, indicated he would not sign a map that maintains the boundaries of current Congressional District 5 held by Congressman Al Lawson (R-FL-5).

DeSantis made waves earlier this year when he waded into the redistricting process by submitting his own proposed maps, something no Florida governor had done previously. DeSantis’ team took exception to District 5, as it snakes across North Florida from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.

Defenders of the current boundaries have said it upholds a historic minority voting bloc in rural North Florida.

The Florida House, this month, agreed to one of DeSantis’ proposals that would eliminate District 5 as it currently exists, but they provided a “backup” plan in the event of a court ruling striking down the primary map. But DeSantis has already said he opposes the House’s effort.

“They haven’t matched our lines up exactly,” said Senate Reapportionment Chairman Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero). “But based upon what they have done, and a functional analysis has been performed on those (minority access) seats after they have proposed them, it is clear that we are preserving the opportunity for minority voters, which makes it constitutional.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Ashley Moody” by Florida Attorney General Office. Photo “Laurel Lee” by Laurel M. Lee. Background Photo “Florida State Capitol” by DXR. CC BY-SA 4.0.

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