A coalition of civil rights groups has filed the first lawsuit in Florida against the recently enacted congressional map put forward by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis that eliminates two districts represented by Black Democrats while giving Republicans the advantage in as many as 20 of 28 seats.
The GOP-controlled Florida legislature approved the map in a special session this week along party lines. DeSantis said he signed the map into law Friday.
The suit, filed in state court in Leon County, alleges that the map is a Republican gerrymander and violates the Fair Districts amendment of the Florida Constitution by diminishing the power of Black voters. The plaintiffs are asking the court to rule that the map or individual districts violate the Fair Districts amendment and to order the adoption of a new congressional map.
The challenge was filed by several Florida voters, as well as the League of Women Voters Florida, Black Voters Matter, Florida Rising and Equal Ground Florida.
The legal action comes roughly 24 hours after state Republicans voted to adopt the new boundaries, which — in an unprecedented move — were submitted by DeSantis’ office last week after he vetoed previous maps approved by the legislature.
The approved map could help Florida Republicans gain up to four seats in the US House of Representatives this November.
The map dismantles the state’s 5th Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Al Lawson, which connects Black communities from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Instead, Jacksonville, the city with the largest African American population in Florida, is divided into two Republican-leaning districts.
The map also shifts the 10th Congressional District — an Orlando-area seat represented by Val Demings, a Black Democrat now running for US Senate — east toward Whiter communities.
DeSantis has contended those districts are racially gerrymandered and has suggested they are unconstitutional.
Several Black members of the Florida House staged a protest during debate Thursday, forcing an informal recess before Republican members then continued the process by ending debate and holding the vote during the protest.
Republicans currently hold a 16-11 advantage in Florida’s US House delegation. The state added a 28th district following the 2020 US census.