|TALLAHASSEE | A federal trial accusing Gov. Ron DeSantis of intentionally discriminating against Black voters during redistricting concluded Tuesday after four days of intense scrutiny into the governor’s successful dismantling of voting protections long embedded in the state’s congressional maps.
Over the course of four days in court, lawyers for voting-rights organizations and lawyers for the governor battled over the legal arguments and political machinations that brought about a congressional map that eliminated a protected Black district in North Florida.
The judges — U.S. District Judges M. Casey Rogers and Alan C. Winsor, along with 11th U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan — indicated they will try to rule on the case before the end of the year. That way, if they throw out DeSantis’ map, it should give enough time for the Florida Legislature to enact a new one in time for the 2024 elections.
If either side appeals the court’s decision, that appeal goes directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the heart of the case was DeSantis’ gamble to rewrite the rules of redistricting, a gamble that pitted him at times against the Legislature, the Florida Supreme Court, members of his own party and voting-rights groups.
Fueled by a stated conviction that Florida’s voting protections were unconstitutional, DeSantis succeeded in muscling through his own map — upending three decades of electoral precedent that had allowed Black voters in North Florida a say in Congress in the old 5th Congressional District and its predecessors, which was held by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) from 1992 until 2016 and then Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) from 2016 until 2022.
The Legislature, initially resistant, ultimately acquiesced, casting a shadow over its earlier efforts that had drawn tentative praise for following the state’s Fair Districts standards.