The Florida Supreme Court will consider a challenge to a state congressional map advocated by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, which was enacted after the 2020 census and dismantled a Black-majority district, according to a filing Wednesday.
Voting rights groups appealed to the state Supreme Court after the First District Court of Appeal of Florida upheld the constitutionality of the redistricting plan last month. A lower court had previously found that the new map had improperly diluted Black voting power.
The appeals court disagreed, finding that the plaintiffs “failed to present any evidence” that the earlier version of the 5th Congressional District, which connected Black communities from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, contained a singular cohesive community that would have a right to protection under Florida’s constitution.
Republicans hold 20 of Florida’s 28 US House seats under the map sponsored by DeSantis in 2022. It moved a significant number of Black voters from the old 5th District near Jacksonville – which was represented by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat – into communities represented by White Republicans. Lawson later ran for a redrawn Republican-leaning seat anchored in Tallahassee and lost to GOP Rep. Neal Dunn by 20 points.
The order Wednesday gave attorneys for voting rights groups until February 28 to file an initial brief. Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd will have 30 days to file his response.
Florida’s Supreme Court has a more conservative-leaning panel since this issue was last considered, with five of the seven sitting justices appointed by DeSantis. Justice Charles Canady, who is married to Republican state Rep. Jennifer Canady, recused himself from the new redistricting case.
A separate federal case – which argues that the map violates the US Constitution – is pending.
The Florida case is one of several ongoing legal battles over redistricting, the outcome of which could change the balance of power in the US House of Representatives after next year’s elections. Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the chamber.
CNN’s Ethan Cohen and Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.
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