The Florida Supreme Court declined to weigh in on the congressional map drawn by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, leaving new district boundaries that have been criticized as discriminatory against Black Floridians in place ahead of the midterm elections.
The map — which DeSantis forced the state Legislature to approve — gives Republicans as many as four additional House seats in Congress. A number of advocacy groups challenged the map in state court in April, saying it violates anti-gerrymandering provisions in the state Constitution.
Challengers then asked the state Supreme Court to take up the case in hopes of keeping the map from being used this fall. In a brief 4-1 ruling on Thursday, the court said it wouldn’t wade into the fight while the case was still under consideration in a lower court.
The court fight was inevitable after the Florida Legislature — at DeSantis’ insistence — dismantled a Black-held congressional seat in northern Florida, spreading Democratic voters across several Republican districts.
Black Democrats, who made up a strong majority of Democratic primary voters in the district, had been regularly elected to represent the seat, which ran from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. DeSantis argued the seat was a racial gerrymander that violated the U.S. Constitution, while state lawmakers had pushed to keep it somewhat intact in an effort to comply with state anti-gerrymandering rules found in the Fair Districts Amendment.
Florida is one of more than a dozen states where new congressional maps are being litigated, following the political boundary line drawing process that happens every 10 years after the U.S. Census measures population growth across the country.
Some state courts — like in New York and Virginia — have quickly blocked the use of gerrymandered maps, while others in Ohio and Florida have ruled to allow the map’s use while advocacy groups challenge their legality in the coming months.