Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ voting map, which could determine how much political representation Black voters have in the state for the next decade, was partially tossed out by a federal judge on Wednesday.
DeSantis became the first governor in history to veto a voting map drawn and approved by a legislature controlled by his own party earlier this year. That map was drawn up as part of a decennial redistricting effort that follows each U.S. census count. The legislature’s map would have favored Republicans, who already control Florida’s legislature, and might have had a better chance of holding up under judicial review. But it would have also left intact Congressional districts currently represented by Black Democrats Al Lawson and Val Demmings, and DeSantis wanted to eliminate one or both of the seats.
DeSantis signed his own map, which eliminated Lawson’s district, into law in April. But Florida Circuit Court Judge Layne Smith says the map is unconstitutional.
Smith cited a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution that requires maps to be drawn in a fair manner.
“I am finding the enacted map is unconstitutional under the Fair District Amendment because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice,” Smith said from the bench.
Smith, appointed to his post by DeSantis, said he would race to finish the written ruling so that the state could immediately appeal.
DeSantis’ attempt at disenfranchising Black voters came as he tried to help his party regain control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections and as he tests the boundaries of his own power with the 2024 presidential election looming. Already this year the right-wing Florida governor has signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill limiting teachers’ ability to even mention homosexuality or gender fluidity in some classrooms, a new measure authorizing a special election police force that some believe could be used to intimidate voters and another measure to eliminate a special district that gave the Walt Disney Co. taxation and other authorities because of its opposition to Don’t Say Gay.