Court Upholds Destruction Of Florida Black District

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  • Michael Moline Florida Phoenix
Florida House

The Florida House debating the redistricting issue Feb. 2, 2022.

(Michael Moline)

Gov. Ron DeSantis has claimed victory now that a federal trial court has upheld his demolition of a Black-controlled congressional district in north Florida, but the price includes a withering denunciation: That he was willing to cut Black voting strength to put more Republicans in office.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled last week that the organizations and individual voters who challenged the governor’s congressional redistricting plan two years ago had failed to demonstrate that the Legislature acted out of racial discrimination.

But Judge Adalberto Jordan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, who participated in the lower court proceedings, concluded in a concurring opinion that DeSantis “acted with race as a motivating factor (among others) in drawing and pushing through” his congressional redistricting plan.

Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed victory after a federal court upheld his redistricting plan.

(Governor’s Office)

Another panel member, Allen Winsor of the Northern District, disagreed in a separate concurrence. And the unsigned joint opinion argues that any suspect motivations on the governor’s part didn’t matter because what counts were the Legislature’s motives, and the court found an “absence of any evidence that any member of the Florida Legislature, much less a majority of its members, was actually motivated by racial discrimination.”

Filling out the panel was District Judge Casey Rogers. Federal procedure calls for these panels in reapportionment cases; any appeal would go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Two years ago, I vetoed the congressional redistricting map that the Legislature passed; we ended up getting a different map,” the governor said during a news conference Thursday.

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“There was a lot of carping back then, a lot of media that map was not going to pass legal muster, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth about that, and so last night there was a three-judge panel, federal court 3-0 upheld the map as being constitutional and that’s what we said would happen,” he added.

Al Lawson district

Adora Obi Nweze, NAACP Florida State Conference President

(lorida State Conference NAACP))

DeSantis’ map eliminated a version of the old Congressional District 5, extending from Jacksonville through Tallahassee to majority-Black Gadsden County to gather descendants of the plantation-era “slave belt,” which for years sent Black Democrat Al Lawson to Congress. The map instead created a series of white-majority districts that have elected Republicans. The governor forced the Legislature to accept his map after vetoing its legislative plan preserving the district.

“We won’t let this go unchallenged,” Common Cause Florida, one of the plaintiffs, said of the outcome on its X feed.

“Yesterday, the court failed Black Floridians. Failed to protect us from intentional discrimination seeking to limit our collective voice on the basis of race,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference, another plaintiff. “But setbacks and injustices like this are not new. We will keep fighting for Black communities in Florida to be heard. And we will triumph in the end because when the people fight together, the people win.”