Ron DeSantis

lorida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference on February 05, 2024 in Miami Beach, Florida.

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Federal Court Rules Racist Florida Voting Map Backed by DeSantis Can Remain for 2024 Election

“This is not only disappointing, but it sets a perilous precedent," said Ellen Freidin, CEO of FairDistricts NOW.

A federal three-judge panel unanimously ruled on Wednesday that Florida's congressional map may remain after it was challenged by former Rep. Al Lawson and the watchdog group Common Cause.

Lawson is a black Democrat whose district was dismantled when the map was created in 2022. Lawson and Common Cause alleged that the map was discriminatory against Black voters, but the federal court rejected those claims. Two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents.

The plaintiffs argued that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was acting with racial animus when he called for Lawson's district to be dismantled. The court ruled that even if DeSantis was acting with racial animus, the plaintiffs couldn't prove the Legislature was when it created the map.

"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," said Ellen Freidin, CEO of FairDistricts NOW. "The ultimate result permits legislators to conspire with the governor to keep themselves and their party in power while remaining insulated from the law."

A Florida judge had ruled the map was unconstitutional in 2022 because "it diminishes African Americans' ability to elect candidates of their choice."

One of the judges on the federal court panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, did say he believed DeSantis had racist reasoning behind his actions.

"I do not think that Governor DeSantis harbors personal racial animus toward Black voters," Jordan wrote. "But I do believe that he used race impermissibly as a means to achieve ends (including partisan advantage) that he cannot admit to."

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