© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You Count on Us, We Count on You: Donate to WUSF to support free, accessible journalism for yourself and the community.

An appeal court will hear arguments over North Florida's congressional districts

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law this congressional map, which eliminated North Florida's only district where Black voters could elect their candidate of choice. In this map, every congressional district from Pensacola to Jacksonville leans Republican and performs for white voters.
Florida State Legislature
/
Floridaredistricting.gov
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law this congressional map, which eliminated North Florida's only district where Black voters could elect their candidate of choice. In this map, every congressional district from Pensacola to Jacksonville leans Republican and performs for white voters.

Attorneys for voting rights groups and the state will present arguments over the constitutionality of Florida's congressional map before the state's First District Court of Appeal.

A state district court of appeal will hear arguments on Tuesday in a challenge to North Florida’s congressional districts.

The case centers on the removal of the region’s only district where African American voters could elect their candidate of choice. Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed into law a map that eliminated former Congressional District 5 — which stretched from Gadsden County to eastern Duval County — after pushing back against the legislature's efforts to keep the district intact.

Last month, a judge in Leon County issued a ruling that blocked the map from taking effect in future elections. "Plaintiffs have established that there was no Black-performing district, where there previously was," wrote Judge J. Lee Marsh.

The state constitution prohibits the diminishment of a minority group's ability to elect their candidate of choice. The provision is part of the Fair Districts Amendments, which were added to the constitution by voters in 2010 in an effort to ensure fairly drawn federal and state voting maps.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has argued that applying the state constitution's non-diminishment standard to North Florida violates the federal constitution, but that's never been decided by a state or federal court.

The case could end up before the Florida Supreme Court

Both sides have agreed that the state Supreme Court should ultimately decide whether North Florida's congressional districts are constitutional.

Before the First District Court of Appeal decided to take up the case, the court denied a request from both sides to expedite the case directly to the state Supreme Court. The goal of the joint-stipulation agreement was to get a resolution in time for state lawmakers to pass a new map if necessary in the upcoming legislative session.

"The parties agree that time is of the essence," attorneys for the two sides wrote in a brief filed with the appeal court. "The trial court struck down the State’s current congressional districting map, and state and local election officials must have clarity on which map will govern the 2024 elections well in advance of Election Day."

The appeal by Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the legislature, the original defendants in the case, automatically put a stay on the lower court's ruling, leaving the case unsettled.

The Florida Supreme Court could take up the case by the end of the year if either side appeals a decision by the lower court.
Copyright 2023 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

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.