Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is pushing back on a lawsuit filed over its congressional redistricting map, arguing that the liberals suing the state are using racism to allegedly fight racism.
At issue is a map the Republican governor proposed, and was accepted by state lawmakers, in April during Florida’s redistricting process after the 2020 census. DeSantis’ map reconfigured the 5th Congressional District, now represented by Tallahasee Democrat Al Lawson, who is black.
Currently, the 5th District stretches along Interstate 10 from the Chattahoochee area west of Tallahassee to eastern Jacksonville, just short of the Atlantic coast. That’s a distance of roughly 200 miles.
DeSantis made the new Panhandle districts more contiguous. Liberals, led by the League of Women Voters and Black Voters Matter, sued, claiming that DeSantis’ map was rooted in racism and discriminated against black voters in north Florida.
As DeSantis’ critics maintained in court records, “Black voters were previously able to elect their candidates of choice.”
“Rather than preserve a North Florida district where black voters would retain their ability to elect their candidates of choice to Congress, the DeSantis plan cracks black voters among four majority-white districts, thus diminishing their voting strength in violation of the Fair Districts amendment.”
The obvious rejoinder to the plaintiffs’ argument that black voters need their own districts to elect black politicians is Rep. Byron Donalds, a black Republican who represents the Naples area.
Which suggests that this lawsuit is more about protecting a Democratic seat than black voters – not to mention the white and Hispanic voters who, because of the racial gerrymandering that the plaintiffs advocate, are also essentially denied to ability to “elect candidates of their choice.”
In their response, filed Monday, lawyers for Secretary of State Laurel Lee made this argument, saying in court records, as the News Service of Florida reported, that DeSantis’ critics “had not shown the new map would diminish the ability to elect Black candidates,” but rather that “they show an inability to elect Democratic candidates.”
“In sum, the non-diminishment provision wasn’t put in place to mandate a safe Democratic congressional district,” the state’s attorneys wrote. “Plaintiffs must disentangle partisanship from race before they can trigger” that provision.
Lee’s lawyers further asserted that the plaintiffs cannot defend their “race-based district,” or explain how it passes muster under the U.S. Constitution.
They note in court records that “the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
“Plaintiffs ask the court to turn this truism on its head,” they added, “and revert to some racially gerrymandered congressional map that packs black voters from Florida’s First Coast together with black voters over 200 miles away from Florida’s Big Bend.”