TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The legal challenge against Florida’s congressional map in Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute v. Byrd, which includes the League of Women Voters of Florida, has significantly strengthened as a result of an agreement between the parties.
Specifically, as part of the agreement, Florida’s Secretary of State, the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate have admitted that the state’s congressional map diminishes the voting power of Black Floridians and prevents them from electing a candidate of their choice in Florida’s 5th Congressional District. In doing so, this admission supports the plaintiffs’ argument that Florida’s congressional map violates Article III, § 20 of the Florida Constitution known as the Fair Districts Amendment, which states that redistricting plans are prohibited from being drawn to diminish minority voters’ ability to elect representatives of their choice. Additionally, today’s agreement states that if the plaintiffs prevail, a new remedial plan will be in place in time for the 2024 primary elections.
The prior version of the Fifth Congressional District, which had allowed Black voters to elect candidates of their choice, had been ordered by the Florida Supreme Court as a result of a legal challenge to the state’s 2012-drawn map. The current congressional map, pushed by Governor Ron DeSantis, violates the Fair Districts Amendment by diminishing the ability of Black voters to elect representatives of their choice.
Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute v. Byrd was filed in the Circuit Court of Leon County by a group of individual voters and the community-based organizations Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and Florida Rising, all supported by the National Redistricting Foundation (NRF).
“This settlement agreement works towards limiting the damage done by the Governor and legislature when they chose to disregard standards set forth by the highest court of the state of Florida, our State Supreme Court. It also highlights the willingness of our state government to refuse to follow the law in place and instead negate provisions of our state constitution that were enacted via citizens’ initiative. In essence, this agreement establishes a path forward toward the revitalization of the voices of Florida’s citizens. Floridians must not forget this attack on Black representation and our democracy. This should serve as a strong reminder that no matter what we look like, where we come from, or what office we hold, we must all obey the law,” said Cecile M. Scoon, Esq., Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
“Our case against Florida’s gerrymandered congressional map has been strengthened and is moving forward with renewed momentum. This is a promising step forward for Black voters whose voting power was disgracefully targeted by Governor DeSantis in his quest for artificial power. History has shown us that fighting for the promise of a free and fair democracy does not happen in a singular moment, and the fight for fair maps in Florida will continue even after this case is resolved. Floridians deserve fair maps—and success in this case will deliver a major step in that direction,” said Olivia Mendoza, Director of Litigation and Policy for the NRF.
“Today proves how our collective power and undeniable persistence can lead to a win for all Floridians, including those historically marginalized and silenced more often than not. In the process of producing a severely gerrymandered map, Ron DeSantis led the way by refusing to allow the public to know how or why this map was passed, which has undoubtedly tainted the democratic process in Florida. The same voters who DeSantis and his allies continuously disrespect and attempt to disenfranchise, are now being protected by the Fair Districts Amendments. Building Black and Brown political power starts with hearing the needs and values of the people, and amplifying those voices through representative democracy and the right to vote. Today we prove that the will of the people cannot be sabotaged or eliminated by immoral officials parading as dictators,” said Moné Holder, Senior Director of Advocacy and Programs at Florida Rising.
“Today’s announcement affirms what we knew to be true since the redistricting process concluded—the Governor forced the Legislature to adopt a new Congressional Map that diminished minority representation. Despite having taken Florida voters down a similar path over 10 years ago when the Florida Supreme Court chastised Florida legislators for making a ‘mockery’ of the redistricting process, today’s stipulation proves they did not learn their lesson. Had it not been for Florida’s redistricting coalition bringing suit to challenge the unconstitutional map that was approved last year, Florida voters would be forced to accept a gerrymandered map that conflicts with our state law as outlined in the Fair Districts Amendment. We want to thank our legal team, the redistricting coalition and all who stood alongside us and dared to believe Floridians deserved better. While not perfect, this announcement clears the way for a map that restores congressional representation for voters in North Florida and empowers them to select a candidate of their choice. We look forward to the upcoming hearing as we continue the fight to protect our voting rights,” said Jasmine Burney-Clark, Founder and Consulting Director of Equal Ground Education Fund.
- Brooke Lillard, National Redistricting Foundation, email@example.com
- Blake Summerlin, League of Women Voters of Florida, firstname.lastname@example.org