Federal Court Declines to Halt Unfair Voting Map

DeSantis’ congressional map that weakens Black voting power in place for 2024 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Yesterday, a federal court in Florida ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ congressional map that intentionally silences Black voters can remain in place for the 2024 election. The case, Common Cause Florida v. Byrd, stems from the 2022 congressional map DeSantis forced through the legislature in a discriminatory process that robbed Black Floridians of fair representation in Washington.

The ruling upholds the destruction of former CD-5 across north Florida, in Florida’s former “Slave Belt”, even while clearly acknowledging that the Black population currently residing in north Florida descend from those enslaved men and women and comprise a large share of Florida’s overall Black population today.

“This court’s failure to protect Black voters from blatant and intentional discrimination is dangerous,” said Amy Keith, Common Cause Florida executive director. “After clearly recognizing Florida’s history of racial discrimination, the court ignored its most recent iteration, greenlighting legislative adoption of the Governor’s racially motivated map. While the governor created the racially discriminatory map, the legislature has its own obligation to stand up and defend the constitution, and defend Black Floridians. Common Cause Florida will continue to fight for fair representation and work to ensure that, despite this map, Black voters can make their voices heard loud and clear in 2024 and beyond.”

“Yesterday, the court failed Black Floridians. Failed to protect us from intentional discrimination seeking to limit our collective voice on the basis of race. 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,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference.

Ellen Freidin, CEO of FairDistricts NOW, said, “This is not only disappointing, but it sets a perilous precedent. The court is saying that a state legislature can erase a performing Black district for political gain as long as it can blame the governor for coming up with the racist scheme in the first place. The ultimate result permits legislators to conspire with the governor to keep themselves and their party in power while remaining insulated from the law.

In his concurring opinion, Judge Jordan recognized that the Governor acted with race as a motivating factor. “It bears repeating that between 1992 and 2022 Benchmark CD-5 and its predecessor—the former CD-3—enabled Black voters in North Florida to begin the difficult work of undoing more than a century of voter discrimination,” Jordan wrote. “For three short decades, they experienced the promise of representative democracy.”

A coalition of nonpartisan voting rights groups sued the state over the unfair map, including Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, and individual Florida voters. Gov. DeSantis’ congressional map reduced Black opportunity districts from four to two. The groups argued that the map violated the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibit intentional discrimination and give voters the freedom to elect a candidate of their choice.

In September and October of last year, the coalition of voting groups participated in a two week long trial, with Common Cause Florida Director Amy Keith taking the witness stand. Alex Kelly, Governor DeSantis’ key architect of discriminatory map and Fentrice Driskell, Florida House Minority Leader, also took the stand.  

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the NAACP Office of General Counsel, and Bedell, Dittmar, DeVault, Pillans & Coxe represented the voting rights groups in the federal case. 

To view a copy of the court’s decision, click here.