Florida Supreme Court refuses to speed up challenge to North Florida redistricting plan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court declined on Monday to expedite a challenge to a congressional redistricting plan pushed through the Legislature by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. This decision is likely to mean that the disputed map will remain in effect for this year’s elections.

READ: State appeals ruling, which found Florida’s congressional map unconstitutional

In a brief one-sentence order, the court denied a request from voting rights groups and other plaintiffs to expedite the case, with arguments requested to be held during the first week of April.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs acknowledged in a motion filed on February 1 that without an expedited schedule, the disputed map would likely persist for this year’s elections, given the qualifying period for congressional candidates scheduled from April 22 to April 26.

“Without an expedited briefing schedule, petitioners and Floridians will again vote under a redistricting plan of questionable legality,” the motion stated.

The Supreme Court’s decision follows objections filed by attorneys representing Secretary of State Cord Byrd and the Legislature on Friday. They argued that expediting the case would reintroduce uncertainty into the electoral process, particularly after the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the redistricting plan, providing clarity for state and county election officials.

The case revolves around the overhaul of a North Florida district previously represented by Black Democrat Al Lawson. This district, Congressional District 5, was relocated to the Jacksonville area during the redistricting plan, resulting in white Republicans winning all North Florida congressional seats in the 2022 elections.

READ: Racial discrimination claim key as North Florida redistricting trial starts

The plaintiffs contend that the redistricting plan violates a 2010 state constitutional amendment, known as the Fair Districts Amendment, prohibiting the drawing of districts that would diminish the ability of minorities to elect representatives of their choice.

While a Leon County circuit judge sided with the plaintiffs, the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned the decision on December 1, ruling in favor of the state.

The Supreme Court’s order on January 24 indicated that it would hear the case, setting deadlines for the filing of briefs. However, it did not specify a date for arguments, which will follow the filing of briefs.

A separate challenge to the redistricting plan is pending in federal court, focusing on federal constitutional issues.

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William Clayton

William Clayton, Action News Jax

Digital reporter and content creator for Action News Jax