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A federal trial over Florida’s congressional map is getting underway

Plaintiffs in the federal case are seeking changes to the map that could affect congressional districts across the state.
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Plaintiffs in the federal case are seeking changes to the map that could affect congressional districts across the state.

The trial begins Tuesday morning. Several civil rights groups and voters are challenging the map. They argue that it intentionally discriminates against Black voters.

A federal trial over the constitutionality of Florida’s congressional districts gets underway today.

Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed into law a map that eliminated two of the state’s four districts where African American voters can reliably elect their candidate of choice. Several civil rights groups and voters are challenging the map in federal court. They argue that the map intentionally discriminated against Black voters.

“We are alleging that the state engaged in intentional discrimination,” said Kathay Feng, vice president of programs for Common Cause, one of the plaintiffs.

The trial begins at 8:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee. It's expected to last two weeks.

Plaintiffs in the federal case are seeking changes to the map that could affect several districts across the state, including in North Florida, the Orlando area and the Tampa Bay region. The court could find intentional discrimination in any of the districts that plaintiffs are challenging, Feng explained.

“They could focus on the district in northern Florida or they could focus on all the districts in the state where they find there was intentional discrimination.”

DeSantis has described the map as “race neutral,” and attorneys for the state plan to make that same argument during the trial.

A challenge to the map in state court is ongoing, but that case only focuses on North Florida’s districts.

DeSantis’ Acting Chief of Staff Alex Kelly — who drew the map — is expected to take the witness stand in the federal case.

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Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.
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