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Florida Congress card unlawfully hurt black voters, judge says

The issue in the ruling involved an area previously mapped as House District 5, which stretched from Jacksonville to Tallahassee along Florida’s northern border with Georgia.

The district, whose voting population was about 46 percent black, had elected Al Lawson, a black Democrat, in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections. Its voting patterns were racially polarized, with black residents voting primarily for Democrats and white residents voting mostly for Republicans.

In the new map approved by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis ahead of last year’s midterm elections, that area was divided into four districts with voter populations ranging from about 13 percent to about 32 percent black. In 2022, all four districts elected a white Republican, one of whom thus defeated Mr. Lawson.

“Under the plan passed in 2022, North Florida did not elect a black member of Congress for the first time since 1990,” Judge Marsh wrote in his ruling, in a list of facts that did not been challenged by either party.

In addition to having a major effect on the representation of black voters in Congress, redistricting decisions like this could have a significant impact on the national political landscape.

Given the narrow division of the House of Representatives, these decisions can mean the difference between a Republican or Democratic majority without a single voter switching sides. Which party will control Congress after the 2024 election could hinge on legal challenges to the cards in Florida and several other states, including Alabama, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

Under the ruling, Florida is prohibited from using the unconstitutional map in the 2024 election, and state lawmakers are required to draw a new map that does not diminish the voting power of Black Floridians.

But this is a lower court ruling and authorities in Florida can appeal. The case could end up in the Florida Supreme Court, which is controlled by people named by Mr. DeSantis, and could overturn the decision.

Whether lawmakers are to redraw the map, it remains to be seen what the new version will look like — and whether lawmakers will abide by the decision or seek to test its limits to maximize the Republican advantage, as lawmakers have done. ‘Alabama after the Supreme Court. ruled this year that their card violated federal voting rights law.


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