Tallahassee, FL — A Florida trial court has sided with plaintiffs including the League of Women Voters of Florida in the case Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute v. Byrd, ruling that Florida’s congressional map violates Article III, § 20 of the Florida Constitution, commonly known as the Fair Districts Amendment. Leading up to the trial, the case against Florida’s congressional map was strengthened by an agreement between the parties to the litigation.
“We celebrate the Judge’s ruling in favor of plaintiffs because it cements two fundamental protections for voting rights. First, this ruling protects the hard work of Florida’s citizens who voted for the Fair District Amendments which prohibit diminishment of well established minority voting districts. This is not only a win for African Americans whose voting strength was diluted unfairly when maps, pushed by the governor and forced into law by our state legislature, were enacted, but also a win for all Floridians who voted to ensure their state government cannot silence the votes and voices of its own citizens. Second, the Judge’s ruling refutes the argument of the governor and legislature that the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution will no longer be used to protect the rights of minorities based on race, ethnicity, race or other factors,” said Cecile M. Scoon, Esq, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
“This is a significant victory in the fight for fair representation for Black Floridians. As a result, the current discriminatory map should be replaced with a map that restores the Fifth Congressional District in a manner that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. It should not be lost on the public that Governor DeSantis pushed for the discriminatory map that targeted Black voters with precision. But when the people tenaciously fought back in court to protect their rights, justice prevailed,” said Olivia Mendoza, the Director of Litigation and Policy for the National Redistricting Foundation.
“Voters should be empowered to pick their leaders, not the other way around. Today’s ruling reinforces the fact that Gov. DeSantis forced a compliant Legislature to adopt a gerrymandered congressional map that diminished minority representation, disenfranchised voters, and clearly violated the Fair District Amendments. Rejection of this gerrymandered map was only made possible because Florida’s redistricting coalition legally challenged the Governor’s unconstitutional map. We applaud the judge’s ruling recognizing the need to restore the voting power of Black Floridians in North Florida, and paving the way for a map that empowers voters in that region to select a candidate of their choice. Floridians must not forget this racially motivated assault on our democracy. Our coalition will never waver in our continuing efforts to protect the voting rights of all Floridians,” said Jasmine Burney-Clark, Founder and Consulting Director of Equal Ground Education Fund.
“This ruling is a testament to the tenacity of all Floridians who raised their voices for a fair and compliant congressional map. Through antics and manipulation, Governor DeSantis silenced Black and Brown voters, but today’s decision cements the protections enshrined in the Fair Districts Amendment, and the necessity of a representative democracy for all. Once again democracy, equality and justice have prevailed. The voters in the Fifth Congressional District will decide their representation, not the politicians, and that is what democracy is meant to look like,” said Moné Holder, Senior Director of Advocacy and Programs at Florida Rising.
“While Black and Marginalized communities still have work to do to build a more inclusive democracy in America, today’s decision by the Florida Court, to uphold the principles of the Fair Districts Amendment in the Florida State Constitution is a victory for Black Voters in the Fifth Congressional District. It is a reminder that victories are still possible when communities come together and use every tool available to fight against injustice. As we celebrate this victory from the Court today, we should all be reminded that our work to build a more inclusive democracy in Florida is far from over, and we must stay together to ensure that a congressional map in the Fifth District, which permits Black Voters to choose the candidates of their choice, is put in place. Let us all raise our voices in all communities across the state of Florida to remind Governor DeSantis and the State Legislature that the power is and should always remain with the people,” said April Albright, National Legal Director at Black Voters Matter.
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