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A federal trial over North Florida's congressional lines ends early

Craig Moore
WFSU Public Media

A federal three-judge panel heard closing arguments on Tuesday in a federal trial over the removal of North Florida's only district where Black voters could elect their candidate of choice.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ motivation for signing a congressional map that eliminated North Florida’s only district where African American voters could elect their candidate of choice was at the center of a federal trial that ended this week.

A federal three-judge panel is set to issue a decision on the constitutionality of North Florida’s congressional districts by early next year.

During closing arguments, plaintiffs’ attorneys focused largely on DeSantis’ statements and actions regarding the region’s congressional districts.

DeSantis made his position clear early in the legislature’s map-drawing process by submitting a plan of his own and speaking out against lawmakers’ plans for preserving the previous Congressional District 5 — which stretched from Gadsden County to eastern Duval County and was held by former Democratic Rep. Al Lawson.

The legislature then drafted a plan that put a more compact Black-performing district in Duval County. DeSantis vetoed that plan and called lawmakers into a special session to pass his map.

Plaintiffs attorneys argue this demonstrates DeSantis purposefully removed an African American performing district from the region.

Attorneys for the state, however, argued that it was impossible to draw a Black-performing district in the region that complied with the state and federal constitutions.

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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.