Voting rights groups sue over new Florida congressional maps

FILE PHOTO: Vote signs outside Palm Beach County Public Library polling station during the 2020 presidential election in Palm Beach

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) – Several voting rights groups filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging Florida’s new congressional map, saying it unfairly diluted the voting power of Black residents to benefit Republicans.

The new map is backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who signed it into law on Friday. It passed the state Senate on Wednesday and the House of Representatives on Thursday after some Black lawmakers from the Democratic Party staged a sit-in protest during debate.

With all but two other states finished with the once-a-decade redistricting process, the outcome in Florida could play a significant role in determining control of Congress in November’s elections.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Black Voters Matter joined several other voting rights groups and individual Floridians in challenging the map in a state court in Tallahassee, the state capital.

The lawsuit says the new map violates the state constitution by intentionally favoring one political party and diminishing the voting power of non-white voters.

It names Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Attorney General Ashley Moody, the state Senate and House, and several individual lawmakers as defendants. The defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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The lawsuit asks the court to order that the map not be used in this year’s midterm elections and to require that a new one be drawn that complies with the Florida constitution.

DeSantis’ map would likely give Republicans control of 20 of the state’s 28 districts, four more than they currently hold.

Republicans need to flip five seats nationally to take the majority in the U.S. House, which would allow them to block much of Democratic President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Advocates have said the plan violates the law by reducing the number of Black districts from four to two. DeSantis has argued that the map is “race neutral” and that the current map is racially gerrymandered in an unconstitutional way.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Berkrot)