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Florida files motion to halt federal court proceedings on congressional map

Judge's gavel on table in office
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Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee is asking a federal court to issue a stay on proceedings in a legal challenge to the state's congressional map as lawmakers are scheduled to meet in a special session on April 19 - 22 to draw new lines.

Florida’s Secretary of State Laurel Lee is asking a federal court to halt proceedings in a lawsuit over the state’s new congressional map.

Lee filed the motion on Friday, a few days after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced state lawmakers would convene in Tallahassee for a special session on April 19 - 22 to draw new U.S. House district lines.

Because the governor and state legislative leaders failed to reach an agreement on a new congressional map before the regular lawmaking session ended in mid-March, voting rights groups are urging a three-judge panel to decide how the lines are drawn. They say the plan that DeSantis has proposed is unconstitutional because it would diminish minority voting power in North and Central Florida.

The legislature passed a bipartisan map last month. DeSantis vetoed the plan last week. At a press conference following the veto, DeSantis expressed his desire for the federal court to stay the proceedings.

"Clearly this is the legislature's and then in this case the governor's prerogative because I have to put my signature on this," DeSantis said. "You're not going to have it drawn by a court."

In the motion, Lee echoes that argument: "A stay is appropriate to allow the political branches to do their work." She explains that the governor and legislative leaders have already stated their intent to produce a new congressional map later this month. The state constitution grants them the authority to do that.

A similar lawsuit is pending in Florida's 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County. Lee has conceded in that pending litigation that the state court should decide how the lines are drawn if the governor and legislature fail to finalize a new map after the special session.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.