A Florida court of appeals on Friday reinstated a stay against a circuit judge’s presiding that blocked the congressional redistricting plan put forth by Gov. Ron DeSantis, allowing his map to be used in the upcoming November elections.
The decision is predicated on the legality to terminate Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a winding and arbitrarily drawn area put in place to help elect a Black member of Congress. DeSantis in recent months claimed that maintaining the district invokes racial gerrymandering and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“Based on a preliminary review, the court has determined there is a high likelihood that the temporary injunction is unlawful,” the court order reads. “Because by awarding a preliminary remedy to the appellee’s on their claim, the order ‘frustrated the status quo, rather than preserved it.”
Florida state judge Layne Smith in an initial ruling last week granted a preliminary injunction on Florida’s new congressional map, preventing the governor’s map from being used in the upcoming election cycle.
The lawsuit sought to halt the implementation of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ self-drawn map, which intended to dissolve Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which is held by Democrat Rep Al Lawson. The lawsuit alleges the map violates Florida’s Constitution and the voter-approved Fair Districts Amendment by reducing the strength of Black voters, with which Smith ruled in conjunction.
DeSantis in March submitted his own redistricting proposal, an action scarcely undertaken by a sitting governor, that would remove the North Florida District.
The governor initially sought legal counsel from the Florida Supreme Court earlier this year as to whether his proposed redistricting plan would be valid in accordance with the Fair Districts standard, though the request was not granted.
“An opinion from this Court in the middle of the legislative process would necessarily interfere with the Legislature’s exclusive authority to craft the laws,” Florida’s Supreme Court said in a legal filing. “While the maps the Legislature might enact remain entirely hypothetical, the threat that the Request for an advisory opinion will draw the Court into the legislative process is not hypothetical. The Legislature is understandably reluctant to act when this Court might issue an opinion affecting its map-drawing powers.”
Fair Districts amended the practice of drawing congressional district boundaries in such ways that they establish equitable practices in districts with high concentrations of minority voters. The State Supreme Court refused to administer advice to DeSantis.