“Because this court has found a violation of the Florida Constitution and there is time to remedy the violation, this court must consider what remedy is appropriate,” Smith said in his order. “This court finds that a narrow remedy – one that addresses only the mitigation discussed in this order – is most appropriate.”
Smith ordered that a map drawn by a Harvard professor who testified for the plaintiffs should be used, but the state’s appeal holds the DeSantis map in place. The case goes to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
Florida has been given a 28th congressional district due to population growth over the past decade, meaning Smith could not have ordered current maps to be used while the litigation was ongoing.
The appeal comes as the state nears the June 13-17 qualification period for federal office, and regardless of what the appeals court decides, the card will then likely be taken to the state Supreme Court. DeSantis appointed three of the seven current judges.
The map has been contested by several suffrage groups who argued it was unconstitutional because it dissolved a North Florida district held by Democratic Rep. Al Lawson where black residents make up nearly 50% of the population. Smith agreed, saying the DeSantis map takes one district with 367,000 black voters and splits them into four districts that would be mostly white.
In an unprecedented move, DeSantis, who is a potential 2024 presidential nominee, interfered in the process by filing his own card just before the Senate was due to approve his card.
During the 60-day legislative session that ended in March, the Senate disregarded the governor’s card, and the House of Representatives approved two cards, a primary card to try to placate DeSantis and a second if the first card it was unconstitutional.
While the House of Representatives debated his proposal, DeSantis said via Twitter that it would be dead on arrival. The Senate later approved the House cards, and DeSantis kept his promise and vetoed the bill.
DeSantis has said Lawson’s district is rigged because of race, claiming it violates the US Constitution. He has said his card is race neutral. Lawson’s district stretches 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Jacksonville to Gadsden to connect black communities.