‘A great victory’: Local leaders applaud judge’s ruling that DeSantis’ congressional map in Florida is unconstitutional

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Republican Congressman Aaron Bean last year became the first Republican to represent Jacksonville’s minority voters in three decades. But how his district was created, according to a state judge, was unconstitutional.

A Florida redistricting plan pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis violates the state constitution and is prohibited from being used for any future U.S. congressional elections since it diminishes the ability of Black voters in north Florida to pick a representative of their choice, a state judge ruled Saturday.

Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh sent the plan back to the Florida Legislature with instructions that lawmakers should draw a new congressional map that complies with the Florida Constitution.

The voting rights groups that challenged the plan in court “have shown that the enacted plan results in the diminishment of Black voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution,” Marsh wrote.

The decision was the latest to strike down new congressional maps in Southern states over concerns that they diluted Black voting power.

Jacksonville Pastor R.L. Gundy is no stranger to speaking out on voting rights and said the weekend ruling is a start.

“We just have to keep pecking like a woodpecker at one thing at a time. We may break the beak every now and then and lose a few battles, but if we keep pecking, we eventually we’re going to be successful. This is a great victory for this community. It’s a great victory for this state. It’s a great victory for this country because this is what democracy looks like,” Gundy said.

But it’s not over.

More than likely state officials will appeal, said Rick Mullaney, News4JAX Political Analyst who is also the Director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute. It may not have an impact until late next year when voters go to the polls for the next national election.

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland said his office has to be ready for the possible change.

“We don’t even know how they would adjust the maps, but we will be prepared to do it. But again, we’re waiting, as you mentioned earlier. There could be an appeal, the appeal could even push it out further. Will it make the 2024 elections? All those kinds of things are still up in the air,” Holland said.

Political observer Marcella Washington, who has been involved in other redistricting lawsuits, said the results of the possible appeal to the state supreme court will tell a lot about the future of Jacksonville.

“So that’s a very conservative body right there,” she said. “But even they have to take into consideration the nature of politics in the state of Florida, the idea that Blacks are clearly not represented. And also, they must be aware that with the shooting that we had, this massacre at Dollar General right here in Jacksonville, Florida, speaks to the fact that we had no congressional representatives there in Washington to bring this issue forward to the national level.”

Congressman Bean’s campaign spokeswoman issued a statement on Monday: “We will not comment on pending litigation and Congressman Bean is very proud to represent and serve his constituents and community in Congress.”

Note: If the map doesn’t appear to be working correctly, refresh your browser window.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.