TALLAHASSEE — A federal lawsuit to redraw the unfair and discriminatory Congressional maps in place in Florida overcame a major milestone this week, when a three-judge panel ruled Tuesday the case can continue to the discovery phase.
The lawsuit filed by Common Cause, Fair Districts NOW, the Florida NAACP and five individual plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida is looking to replace the Congressional voting map passed by Florida’s legislature in February 2022 and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In the amended complaint, the voting rights groups and individual plaintiffs outlined how the voting maps were created and passed by the Florida legislature in a process shrouded in secrecy. The maps, which were used in Tuesday’s midterm elections, dilutes the voting power of Black voters and violate the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S Constitution.
U.S. Circuit Court Judge Adalberto Jordan and U.S. District Court Judges M. Casey Rodgers and Allen Winsor ruled Tuesday in their order that the lawsuit can proceed, a major step toward achieving justice for Florida voters.
“We are pleased to see this important case move forward, so that Florida’s voters can have fair representation in Congress instead of the discriminatory set of voting maps that voters were forced to use in this week’s election,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director for Common Cause.
The unfair Congressional maps were in place for yesterday’s election, harming voters.
“Florida’s Latine, Black, and Asian American populations were disproportionately harmed this week when they had to vote under the discriminatory maps currently in place,” said Allison Riggs, co-executive director and chief counsel for voting rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “The courts moving this case forward will help us ensure a future where those voters can more easily elect candidates of their choice. We will continue to fight for the rights of all Florida voters to be able to freely use their voice.”
The judges also dismissed DeSantis from the lawsuit for procedural reasons but did not weigh in the lawsuit’s assertions that DeSantis acted with discriminatory intent while inserting himself in the redistricting process.
“The three-judge panel may have let Governor DeSantis off the hook for procedural reasons, but we know he was a main architect in the creation of these unfair and illegal Congressional maps that drastically reduced the ability of Black Floridians to elect candidates of their choice,” said Ellen Freidin of Fair Districts NOW.
Voters in Florida passed a constitutional ballot measure in 2010 that outlined how Congressional districts must be redrawn, a process that was pushed aside for the current maps, said Adora Obi Nweze, President of the NAACP Florida State Conference.
“Instead of following the process that we, the people, carved into our state constitution, our governor and legislature trampled on the voting rights of tens of thousands of Floridians for partisan advantages,” Nweze said. “Black Floridian voters deserve to have their day in court given the intentional and shameful efforts to try and silence our voices.”
A copy of the order is available here.
More information about the case is available here.