With Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to veto a Congressional redistricting plan, a lawsuit filed Friday night asks a federal court to define new U.S. House districts that would be used in the US House elections. this autumn.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Florida by two groups and five voters, is similar to a case filed Friday in Leon County Circuit Court. The crux is that DeSantis’ threat to veto a redistricting plan drawn up by state lawmakers undermines the chances of reaching a deal on a map — and that the judges should step in.
“Unlike the Legislative Assembly, Governor DeSantis has demonstrated that he is unwilling to obey the law, or sign a Congressional plan that does, which makes a stalemate highly likely,” the lawsuit said. federal, filed on behalf of the groups Common Cause Florida and FairDistricts Now and the voters of Leon, Gadsden, Orange, Lee and Miami-Dade counties. “To date, the Legislature and Governor DeSantis have not reached agreement on a congressional district plan.”
Plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that a three-judge federal district court panel should implement “a new congressional district plan consistent” with the US Constitution. The lawsuit argues that without a new map, the state could end up with lines based on the 2010 U.S. census rather than the 2020 census, which would be unconstitutional due to demographic changes.
The lawsuit names as defendants DeSantis, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, House Speaker Chris Sprows, R-Palm Harbor and four lawmakers who headed committees and subcommittees of redistricting.
The Leon County case was filed on behalf of nine residents of Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Marion, Lee and Duval counties. He named as defendants Lee and Attorney General Ashley Moody.
The lawsuits are the latest twists in the decade-long redistribution process after DeSantis proposed a plan to Congress in January that differed significantly from the cards being considered by the Republican-controlled Senate and House. Ultimately, trying to please DeSantis, lawmakers passed an unusual plan that included a main card and a backup card.
But DeSantis remained dissatisfied and said he would veto the plan. DeSantis wants a map that would likely be more Republican-friendly. But critics argue that the changes DeSantis seeks would be unconstitutional, at least in part because they could lead to fewer elected minorities.
Lawmakers did not formally send their plan to DeSantis, but uncertainty remained on Friday as the House and Senate wrapped up most of their work in the annual legislative session.
Simpson told reporters it’s too early to tell what will happen if DeSantis vetoes the legislative proposal.
“If the governor vetoes the Congressional map, it will either be dealt with again by the Legislative Assembly or by the court system,” Simpson said. “And we don’t know the outcome of that yet. So I’m not really sure if it would be appropriate to comment.
The 25-page federal lawsuit lists a June deadline for candidates to qualify for the congressional races. On top of the questions, Florida will see its congressional delegation shrink from 27 to 28 seats this year due to population growth, which will require a new district to be factored into the map.
“Given the circumstances, it is almost certain that there will be an impasse requiring judicial intervention,” the federal lawsuit said. “It is highly likely that the Legislative Assembly and the Governor will fail to pass a congressional legal redistricting plan in time to prepare for and be used in the upcoming 2022 congressional elections, leaving the existing plan in place…and denying the fundamental right of Florida voters to vote in evenly proportioned precincts.
Lawmakers also passed redesigned maps of the state House and Senate, which did not spark a challenge in the Florida Supreme Court — a fact noted by the federal lawsuit. DeSantis had no veto power over House and Senate cards.
“The Legislature has shown that it has ample capacity to comply with state and federal laws,” the lawsuit said. “For example, in February 2022, the Legislature passed State Legislative Maps for the Florida House and Senate, both of which reasonably complied with the law and, for the first time in the history of the State, received no objections from third parties when considered by the Florida Supreme Court.