Florida’s First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a congressional map previously signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, striking down a lower court’s ruling that erroneously claimed the proposal suppressed black voters.
Writing for a Florida trial court in September, Judge J. Lee Marsh declared the map “unconstitutional” based upon the false notion the map “diminish[ed]” black Floridians “ability to elect their candidate of choice.” The order — sought by left-wing groups such as the Black Voters Matters Capacity Building Institute and the League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund — further mandated the legislature to redraw the proposed districts.
In its Friday ruling, however, the appeals court noted how Marsh’s irrational logic reads a “racial segregation mandate” into the Florida Constitution by demanding that congressional districts be drawn using race as a factor.
“The constitution cannot demand that all voters are treated equally without regard to race and at the same time demand that voters are treated differently based on race,” the court wrote. Florida’s constitution “requires that racial and language minority voters receive an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and have a non-diminished ability to elect representatives of their choice. The trial court erred in reading a racial segregation mandate into the constitutional provision.”
“We are therefore correct to reverse the final order and remand to the trial court,” it added.
Similar legal reasoning was used by DeSantis, who vetoed prior maps approved by the state legislature last year that created a “black minority seat in North Florida.” The governor’s office argued the proposal’s creation of the district was gerrymandered using race as the primary factor, and therefore violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. This prompted the GOP-controlled legislature to pass the newer map currently being litigated in state court.
Plaintiffs plan to appeal the circuit court’s ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, according to the Washington Examiner.
Friday’s decision marks the second legal victory in recent weeks upholding election integrity measures approved by DeSantis and Florida Republicans. In October, a U.S. district court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by leftist groups falsely claiming Florida’s voter registration process violated federal law. In his ruling, Judge Allen Winsor noted how the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence showing that the state’s “wet-signature requirement” is “immaterial.”