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DeSantis' congressional map revived after appeals court ruling

a colorful map of northern Florida
Executive Office of the Governor
Gov. Ron DeSantis' congressional map eliminates an African American opportunity district in North Florida. The legislature passed the plan in April despite pushback from voters, civil rights groups, and Democratic lawmakers.

A three-judge panel has revived Gov. Ron DeSantis' congressional map after a state circuit court judge ruled earlier this month that the map was unconstitutional.

Equal Ground Action Fund is an Orlando-based organization that works to mobilize Black voters. The group is also one of the plaintiffs involved in litigation challenging DeSantis’ congressional map.

Founder Jasmine Burney-Clark says the appellate court’s ruling putting the map back into effect means Black voters in North Florida will lose their representation in Washington.

“They have had their voices and their representation stripped away from them, and they’ve had it stripped away from them from a governor who is building a map and a congressional delegation that delivers him a victory as he works his way to not only attempting to become governor but ultimately attempting to become President of the United States.”

That’s because DeSantis's map carves up the only district in the region where Black voters can elect a candidate of their choice. Democratic African American Congressman Al Lawson’s district – which stretches from Gadsden County to eastern Duval County – was divided into four white-majority districts in the new map.

“Their votes are now going to be diced up into multiple districts from across the Panhandle. They won’t have a collective representative as they have had in the last few cycles that represent them their values.”

On Friday, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reinstated a stay on Leon County Circuit Court Judge Layne Smith’s previous order issuing a preliminary injunction blocking the map from taking effect ahead of the November elections.

The ruling came on the state's Emancipation Day, which marks the date on May 20, 1865, when enslaved people in the state got their freedom more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

“On this day, I hope that folks will understand that this is just a call for us to step up, and a call for us to do more," Burney-Clark said. "We cannot get relaxed in this decision. We have a long road ahead of us.”

Plaintiffs' attempt to block much of the map from taking effect is part of a broader lawsuit challenging districts across the state.

Following the ruling, DeSantis' office issued a statement saying that they were pleased with the appeals court's ruling. "To avoid uncertainty and confusion in the upcoming 2022 primary and general elections, it’s important to move forward expeditiously to implement the congressional map passed by the legislature and signed by the governor."

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.