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DeSantis-appointed judge declares Florida House map unconstitutional

DeSantis' spokeswoman said he plans on appealing the decision

Published: May 11, 2022 4:01pm

Updated: May 11, 2022 4:22pm

A Florida circuit judge on Wednesday declared the state's congressional map unconstitutional because it drew out a black-majority district in North Florida.

Leon Circuit Judge Layne Smith, a 2020 appointee of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, ordered the old map's boundaries to be restored, The Orlando Sentinel reported. In his ruling, judge said he could not determine whether the proposed map violated the federal Voting Rights Act, but he found it violated the Florida Constitution’s Fair District amendment.

"I am finding that the enacted map is unconstitutional under the Fair Districts amendment ... because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect the representative of their choice," Smith said.

"I’m not going to order the Legislature to go back in session [to fix it]. I don’t really think that’s up to me," he noted during the virtual hearing.

The judge said he plans on issuing an order by Thursday that will return District 5, represented by Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, to almost what it looked like in the old map.

Taryn Fenske, DeSantis' spokeswoman, said the governor plans on appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court.

"As Judge Smith implied, these complex constitutional matters of law were always going to be decided at the appellate level," Fenske said, the Sentinel observed. "We will undoubtedly be appealing his ruling and are confident the constitutional map enacted by the Florida Legislature and signed into law passes legal muster. We look forward to defending it."

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