The League of Women Voters of Florida together with Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund, Florida Rising Together, and individual plaintiffs sued Florida’s Secretary of State, Attorney General, state House, state Senate, and other state officials for violating the Florida Constitution’s Fair Districts Amendment by adopting redistricting maps that favored Republicans and diminished the ability of Black voters to elect the candidates of their choice.
In 2010, the people of Florida voted overwhelmingly for the Fair Districts Amendment to the Florida Constitution, banning legislators from adopting district maps that favored political parties and incumbents or diminished the ability of racial and language minorities to elect representatives of their choice.
After the 2020 Census in February and March 2022, the Florida Legislature enacted new state legislative and congressional districts. Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed the congressional maps and called the legislature into a special session to redraw the congressional maps according to his own proposals, threatening a second veto unless the legislature agreed. The legislature enacted the governor’s plan. These new maps significantly favored Republicans.
The maps originally passed by the Florida Legislature, and then vetoed by Governor DeSantis, consisted of 16 Republican-favoring seats and 12 Democratic-favoring seats. The map enacted under the DeSantis plan instead produced 20 Republican-favoring seats and eight Democratic-favoring seats.
Furthermore, the enacted map divided Florida’s Fifth Congressional District, which was drawn to give Black voters in northern Florida a fair opportunity to elect a member of Congress, into four pieces. The vetoed congressional map had preserved the district after the Florida Legislature asserted it was a protected district under the Fair Districts Amendment’s non-diminishment standard.
While the district consisted of 46.2% Black voters in the vetoed map, Governor DeSantis’ plan divided the Black population of northern Florida across four new districts: Congressional Districts 2, 3, 4, and 5 (as redrawn). The resulting Black populations of these districts are 23.3%, 16.3%, 29.6%, and 11.8%, respectively, diminishing the ability of Black voters to elect their candidates of choice. The DeSantis plan also divided Black voters between multiple districts in central Florida, the Tampa Bay area, and south Florida.
In response, the League of Women Voters of Florida, together with voting rights organizations and individual plaintiffs, filed suit in state court to challenge the maps under the Florida Constitution’s Fair Districts Amendment.
On August 11, 2023, after nearly eighteen months of litigation, during which time elections were held under the challenged Congressional districts, the parties reached an agreement to narrow the claims at issue and consented to an appropriate remedy if the plaintiffs prevailed.
Under the stipulation, the plaintiffs dismissed their partisan gerrymandering claim and the claims against Congressional districts in central Florida and Tampa Bay under the Fair Districts Amendment.
In exchange, the defendants agreed that the plaintiffs had standing and stipulated that none of the current Congressional districts in northern Florida could elect candidates of Black voters' choice. The parties agreed that if the court ruled the Fair District Amendment's non-diminishment standard was constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, the appropriate remedy would be to redraw a Congressional district linking Black communities in the Tallahassee and Jacksonville areas, ensuring they could elect a candidate of their choice, as in the former Fifth Congressional district.
The plaintiffs are represented by King, Blackwell, Zehnder and Wermuth, P.A., Perkins Coie LLP, and the Elias Law Group, LLP. Litigation is ongoing.
LWV Florida files lawsuit
The League of Women Voters of Florida together with Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund, Florida Rising Together, and individual Plaintiffs file a lawsuit challenging Florida's redistricting plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and reduction of Black voters’ ability to elect candidates of their choice.
LWV moves for temporary injunction
LWV Florida and co-plaintiffs file a motion for a temporary injunction enjoining the DeSantis plan's maps.
Trial court grants preliminary injunction
The trial court grants LWV’s motion for a temporary injunction, enjoining the map created under the DeSantis plan in favor of a remedial map submitted by the plaintiffs’ expert.
Florida appeals court stays trial court ruling
The First District Court of Appeals reinstates the stay of the Circuit Court’s temporary injunction, ordering the congressional map under the DeSantis plan to remain in effect.
LWV Florida files an emergency petition for constitutional writ to Florida supreme court
Plaintiffs file an emergency petition to the Florida Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the appeals court's order implementing the DeSantis plan for the 2022 congressional elections.
Florida supreme court denies LWV request for writ
The Florida Supreme Court denies the plaintiffs' request for a constitutional writ, leaving the DeSantis congressional district's plan in place for the 2022 congressional elections while the case continues in the trial court.
Defendants move for partial summary judgment
Defendants move for partial summary judgment on the claims of non-compactness and violation of political and geographic boundary splits, counts four and five of plaintiffs’ complaint.
Plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss two claims
Plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss their claims of non-compactness and violation of political and geographic boundary splits against the new congressional districts.
Parties reach a joint stipulation on claims and remedies
The parties agree to a stipulation stating that if the plaintiffs prevail on their claim that splitting the fifth congressional district violated the Florida constitution's non-diminishment standard, the appropriate remedy would be drawing a district linking the Black communities of the Jacksonville area to those near Tallahassee. This would allow Black voters in northern Florida to elect a candidate of their choice, as was the case in the original fifth congressional district.
State trial court strikes down congressional map
The court rules the current congressional districts for northern Florida, which dismantled the former fifth congressional district and prevented Black voters from electing a candidate of their choice, violates the Florida constitution's Fair Districts Amendment. The court orders the legislature to redraw a map compliant with the Florida constitution and forbids new elections from being held under the current map.
Florida court of appeals holds oral argument
Florida's First District Court of Appeal hears oral argument on whether the trial court's ruling should be affirmed.