Florida Secretary of State says he will appeal state court decision overturning congressional district boundaries

On Sept. 4, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd filed notice that his office and the state legislature would appeal a Leon County Circuit Court decision overturning the state’s congressional district boundaries in North Florida to a state intermediate appellate court. Florida 2nd Circuit Court Judge J. Lee Marsh declared Florida’s current congressional map unconstitutional and in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment on Sept. 2 and directed the legislature to enact new district boundaries.

Byrd said, “We disagree with the trial court’s decision. This is why the stipulation contemplates an appeal with pass through jurisdiction to the Florida Supreme Court which we will be pursuing.”

In the state court’s order, Marsh wrote, “This case is about whether the Legislature, in enacting its most recent congressional redistricting plan, violated the Florida Constitution by diminishing the ability of Black voters in North Florida to elect representatives of their choice. It is also about whether that provision of the Florida Constitution violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In short, the answers are yes and no, respectively. For those reasons, this Court will declare the enacted map unconstitutional and enjoin the Secretary of State from using that map in future congressional elections. This Court will return the matter to the Legislature to enact a new map which complies with the Florida Constitution.”

The decision came in a lawsuit that several voting rights groups and Florida voters filed in April 2022. In May 2022, Leon County Circuit Judge J. Layne Smith said he would rule against the congressional map the legislature enacted in April 2022. Smith said he would order the state to hold the 2022 elections using a map that Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere submitted. The Florida First District Court of Appeal struck down Smith’s decision to implement a court-drawn congressional map in May 2022. The plaintiffs filed an emergency appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on May 23, 2022, seeking to block the congressional district boundaries. On June 2, 2022, the state supreme court declined to hear this appeal.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed the original congressional map into law on April 22, 2022. The map bill was proposed and approved by the legislature during a special session called for redistricting. The state Senate voted 24-15 to approve the map on April 20, and the Florida House of Representatives voted 68-34 to approve the map on April 21. The April 2022 map was the second congressional map bill that the legislature adopted. DeSantis vetoed the first one on March 29, 2022.

Additional reading:

Florida Supreme Court

Amendment XIV, United States Constitution

Florida 2nd Circuit Court

Florida First District Court of Appeal