The 2022 midterm elections are only a few months away, but states around the country are trying to redraw their legislative maps. The Justice Department is currently suing Texas over their gerrymandered map, and places like Ohio and Alabama have had their own rejected by courts within a matter of weeks.
In Florida, Gov. Ron Desantis had submitted a map proposal to break up north Florida’s only African-American district. Before going ahead, Desantis asked the Florida Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion before the final guidelines were passed.
According to Politico, the five-judge panel, including three judges appointed by Desantis, rejected the Gov.’s request on whether District 5 is unconstitutional. Desantis’s new map would give Republicans two additional favorable seats — bringing the GOP’s advantage to 18-10–on top of the 16-12 mark, they have currently. The court claimed Gov. Desantis’s request was too broad in scope, and a review would have “the need for evidence, including voting patterns and demographic information.”
“This court’s advisory opinions to the governor are generally limited to narrow questions,” states the unsigned opinion. “Here, the scope of the governor’s request is broad and contains multiple questions that implicate complex federal and state constitutional matters and precedents interpreting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
The Supreme Court added that any review of Florida’s 5th congressional district would likely involve the need for evidence, including voting patterns and demographic information. They also predicted the map could wind up before them at a later date.
Rep. Al Lawson, whose district would be changed to fall more in Republicans’ favor, had this to say about the ruling. Nearly 44 percent of those who are old enough to vote in the district are Black:
“I commend the Florida Supreme Court for making the right decision,” Lawson said in a statement. “Ron DeSantis wanted the Supreme Court to violate the separation of powers and engage the judicial branch in partisan politics. They wisely and correctly rejected his request. Yes, Ron DeSantis lost today, but more importantly, democracy and the Constitution won.”
Not only would Lawson’s district be adversely changed, but also Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick as well.
The map that DeSantis released on the day before the Martin Luther King holiday also would dilute the Black vote in a South Florida district held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. The current district in Palm Beach and Broward counties is about 50% African American, but the DeSantis map extends it to Florida’s southwest Gulf coast, which tends to vote Republican.