(HorizonPost.com) – The federal trial challenging Florida’s new congressional map got underway in Tallahassee last week as several civil rights groups claim that the map used in the 2022 midterms discriminated against black voters, WUSF reported.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a map into law last year that eliminated two of the four black-majority districts that reliably went to Democrats.
The plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to order changes to the map that would affect several districts, including the Tampa Bay, Orlando, and North Florida areas.
The trial, which began last Tuesday, is expected to last two weeks. A separate state court challenge to the map is ongoing, focusing only the the districts in North Florida.
Governor DeSantis described the new congressional map as “race-neutral,” the argument attorneys for the state are expected to make during the trial.
The primary focus of the trial is a district stretching over 200 miles to combine majority-black areas in Jacksonville with the majority-black Gadsden County to the west.
In March, Governor DeSantis vetoed the state legislature’s congressional maps, which would have preserved a black district, and lobbied for the legislature to approve the congressional map drawn by the governor’s staff.
Under the DeSantis administration’s map, Republicans won the majority of congressional seats in Florida.
Attorney Greg Baker, who is representing the plaintiffs in the case, told the Tampa Bay Times that Governor DeSantis won the argument “by sound bite bullying.”
The plaintiffs include the Florida NAACP, Fair Districts, and Common Cause Florida.
Baker told the three-judge panel that the governor’s objective was to erase the district held by former Democrat Congressman Al Lawson, who is black, and divide the area among other districts in the north that would be easily won by white Republicans.
If the legal challenges are successful, it could help Democrats retake the House where the GOP only holds a 9-seat majority.
Copyright 2023, HorizonPost.com