Lawyers for Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration this week asked a federal court to challenge a new congressional redistricting plan — or at least to stay the trial while other redistricting cases are resolved.
Lawyers for DeSantis and Secretary of State Cord Byrd filed a 29-page document on Wednesday mostly saying the constitutional challenge should be dismissed. They took issue with equal protection arguments from suffrage groups and other plaintiffs, who say the plan intentionally discriminates against black voters.
“Plaintiffs argue that a racially neutral redistricting plan is unconstitutional and therefore requires a racially based redistricting,” the state’s attorneys wrote. “That’s not how the Equal Protection Clause (of the US Constitution) works.”
The plan, which DeSantis pushed through the Legislature in a special session in April, reduced the number of districts eligible to elect black members of the US House and is expected to increase the number of Republicans in the delegation. of the State Congress.
The plaintiffs, including Common Cause Florida, FairDistricts Now and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, argued in a revised lawsuit filed last month that the plan was “enacted, at least in part, for the purpose of disadvantaging black voters. ”
“It flagrantly flouts the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause prohibition on laws enacted for an odious purpose, that is, intentional discrimination on the basis of race,” the lawsuit said. “It also flagrantly ignores the Fifteenth Amendment promise that the right to vote shall not be denied or curtailed on the basis of race.”
The case focuses heavily on changes to Congressional District 5 in North Florida and Congressional District 10 in the Orlando area. Districts in recent years have elected black Democrats Al Lawson and Val Demings.
District 5, for example, in the past stretched from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee, but the new plan concentrates it in the Jacksonville area. DeSantis argued that maintaining the past configuration would involve unconstitutional gerrymandering.
In addition to challenging the plaintiffs’ constitutional arguments, attorneys for the DeSantis administration also said the case should be dismissed for other reasons, including that the plaintiffs lacked legal status.
The fight in federal court continues to unfold in a separate challenge to the redistricting plan in state court. Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith last month issued a temporary injunction against the plan, but the 1st District Court of Appeals stayed Smith’s decision.
The temporary injunction issue remains pending in the Tallahassee Court of Appeals, making it all but certain that the DeSantis-backed redistricting plan will be used in this year’s election. The candidate qualification period for the elections will take place next week.
In Wednesday’s filing, lawyers for the DeSantis administration argued that the federal case should be put on hold if not dismissed. This request stemmed, in part, from the case pending in state court.
“The plaintiffs’ amended complaint does not contain any allegations warranting continued federal oversight in this matter as Florida state courts adjudicate a similar matter. … To proceed, while the state is engaged in ongoing litigation and where state litigation could very well resolve the claims here, creates unwarranted federal interference in the state process,” the filing states.
State attorneys also pointed to a redistricting case in Alabama that is pending in the US Supreme Court.
“Rather than moving forward with federal litigation here, principles of judicial economy and efficiency favor awaiting adjudication in (the Alabama case),” they argued. .