Congressional redistricting lawsuit seeks expedited resolution

by | Sep 11, 2023

  • Attorneys from both sides of the Florida congressional redistricting lawsuit have jointly requested an expedited resolution of the case.
  • This motion follows a recent decision by Judge J. Lee Marsh, which ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ congressional map violates the state constitution and Fair Districts amendment.
  • The expedited timeline is sought to provide certainty to voters, potential candidates, and election officials ahead of the 2024 elections, with the qualifying period for candidates beginning on April 8, 2024.
  • The requested timeline would also allow for the potential redrawing of district boundaries and additional legal proceedings if necessary.

Attorneys representing both sides in the Florida congressional redistricting lawsuit have jointly petitioned for an expedited resolution of the case.

The motion follows a recent decision granted by Leon Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh, who last week ruled that the current congressional map, crafted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, violates both the state constitution and the Fair Districts amendment. Both sides in the lawsuit have entered into a stipulation agreement, seeking to conclude the case before the commencement of Florida’s Legislative Session in January.

The attorneys further contend that an expedited timeline is necessary because the qualifying period for candidates running for Congress in the 2024 elections begins on April 8, 2024 and a failure to settle the lawsuit would prevent potential candidates from planning their campaigns accordingly.

“This appeal requires immediate resolution by the Florida Supreme Court to provide certainty to voters, potential candidates, and elections officials regarding the configuration and validity of Florida’s congressional districts sufficiently in advance of the 2024 elections,” reads the appeal, which was filed on Friday.

The requested expedited timeline would also provide lawmakers with the opportunity to redraw the district boundaries, if necessary, and allow for potential additional legal proceedings before the April qualifying period. Following Marsh’s ruling, Florida’s Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the state House and Senate filed an appeal, which automatically halted the enforcement of Marsh’s decision during the appeal process.

Citing past elections-related cases, the coalition of attorneys appears poised to be granted the sped-up trial timeline.

“Given the inherently time-sensitive issues presented in elections cases, redistricting and other election-related cases are routinely certified for immediate resolution by the Florida Supreme Court,” the appeal continues.

The lawsuit, originally brought forth by a coalition of organizations and individual plaintiffs, alleges that DeSantis’ redistricting plan violates the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendment of 2010 by unfairly reducing the voting power of Black residents in North Florida. The redistricting plan resulted in the elimination of Congressional District 5, held by former Representative Al Lawson, which had previously encompassed North Florida stretching from Tallahassee to Duval County.

Marsh’s ruling is the latest of several challenges and injunctions associated with the case. Last year, in a 59-page emergency petition, plaintiffs requested the Florida Supreme Court to place a stay on the 1st District Court of Appeal’s order that initially re-validated DeSantis’ map.

DeSantis also sought legal advice from the Florida Supreme Court in January of last year, inquiring as to whether his proposed redistricting plan would be valid in accordance with the Fair Districts standard.

In his letter to the Supreme Court, DeSantis inquired about the “non-diminishment standard” in the Florida Constitution, which prevents districts from being drawn that will diminish the ability of minority voters to elect candidates of their choice.

“Specifically, I ask whether the Florida Constitution’s non-diminishment standard requires that congressional districts be drawn to connect minority populations from distant and distinct geographic areas if doing so would provide the assembled minority group sufficient voting strength — although not a majority of the proposed district — to elect a candidate of its choice,” DeSantis wrote.

Following the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene in the case, Florida state judge Layne Smith granted a preliminary injunction on the proposed congressional map on May 11, 2022, preventing the map from being used in the upcoming election cycle before being overturned.


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