Florida appeals judge rules against county map

TALLASSEE, Florida (AP) – The state has appealed a judge’s ruling that a new map of Congress drawn by the staff of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is unconstitutional.

Thursday’s notice of appeal came hours after Circuit Judge Lynn Smith issued an injunction to block DeSantis’ map from being used in the November elections.

“Because this court has found a violation of the Florida Constitution and there is time to remedy the violation, this court must consider appropriate remedy,” Smith said in his order. “This court has found a narrow remedy–which addresses only the derogation discussed in this matter–to be most appropriate.”

Smith ordered the use of a map drawn by a Harvard professor who testified in favor of the plaintiffs, but the state’s appeal keeps the DeSantis map in place. The case goes to the First District Court of Appeals.

Florida was awarded the 28th congressional district due to population growth over the past decade, which means Smith could not have required the use of existing maps while the lawsuit was ongoing.

The appeal comes as the state approaches the June 13-17 qualifying period for the federal position, and no matter what the appellate court decides, the map is likely to be moved to the state Supreme Court. DeSantis appointed three of the seven Florida judges.

The map was challenged by several voting rights groups, who argued that it was unconstitutional because it divided the North Florida region that was controlled by Democratic Representative Al Lawson where black residents make up nearly 50 percent of the population. Smith agreed, saying that DeSantis’ map takes an area with 367,000 black voters and distributes them over four counties that will be overwhelmingly white.

In an unprecedented move, DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, plunged himself into the process by submitting his own map before the Senate passed his map.

During the 60-day legislative session that ended in March, the Senate did not take the governor’s map into account, and the House approved two maps, an initial map to try to appease DeSantis and a second in case the first map is found to be unconstitutional.

While the House debated his proposal, DeSantis used Twitter to say he would die upon his arrival. The Senate later approved the House maps and DeSantis kept his promise and vetoed the bill.

DeSantis said the Lawson district was manipulated on the basis of race and claimed to be in violation of the US Constitution. He said his map is race-neutral. Lawson stretches 200 miles from Jacksonville to Gadsden in an effort to connect black communities.