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Federal court remedy sought over Florida's congressional map

A colorful map of Florida
Executive Office of the Governor
Florida's congressional map was submitted by Gov. Ron DeSantis' office on April 13, about a week before Republican lawmakers passed it and then sent it back to him for signing.

Fair districts groups that sued over Florida's previous congressional map now plan to ask the same federal court to throw out the map Gov. Ron DeSantis' recently signed into law.

In response to a U.S. District Court's order to show cause for amending their original complaint, plaintiffs argue the new map violates the U.S. Constitution's 14th and 15th Amendments "by intentionally destroying Black opportunity districts in Florida and splintering Black communities of interest throughout the State."

The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection of the laws, and the 15th Amendment bars discrimination against voters on the basis of race.

Groups bringing the challenge include Common Cause of Florida, FairDistricts Now, and several voters.

The new map eliminates two congressional districts held by African American Democrats: Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee and Rep. Val Demings of Orlando.

Lawson's Congressional District 5 is a majority-minority district, where Black voters make up enough of the constituency to elect a candidate of their choice.

The groups filed a request to amend their complaint Friday, about a week after the state asked the court to dismiss the case because the state now has a congressional map that includes all 28 districts.

The previous complaint had asked the court to throw out the former map — which had 27 districts — due to "malapportionment." The state had received an extra congressional seat to accommodate population growth over the last decade.

An impasse between the legislature and governor over how the lines should be drawn had groups concerned a new map wouldn't be ready in time for congressional candidates to run in the November elections.

Plaintiffs say they plan to file a separate federal lawsuit challenging the map if the court doesn't grant them permission to amend their existing complaint.

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.