Voting rights groups took to the state Supreme Court on Monday as they try to keep alive the possibility of blocking a congressional redistricting plan that would make it harder for a member to be elected of the Black US House this year in North Florida.
The filing by attorneys for the groups and other plaintiffs was the latest twist in a legal battle over a congressional redistricting plan that Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed through the Legislative Assembly in April.
Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith issued a temporary injunction May 12 against the DeSantis-backed plan, but the 1st District Court of Appeals reimposed a stay of the injunction on Friday. The stint could effectively pave the way for the DeSantis-backed plan to be used in this year’s election.
But in a 59-page emergency motion Monday, plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to stay the 1st District Court of Appeals’ order. Plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that such a move would allow county election supervisors to prepare to implement the plan DeSantis backed and a different plan that Smith approved in his temporary injunction.
“A stay of the First District’s decision is necessary to preserve the ability of this (Supreme) Court to adjudicate party appeals in time for the 2022 election,” the filing said.
The case centers on Congressional District 5, a sprawling North Florida district that was drawn in the past to help elect a black congressman. DeSantis argued that continuing with such a district would involve racial gerrymandering and violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.
The legislature approved DeSantis’ proposal to reorganize the neighborhood, condensing it into the Jacksonville area. But Smith ruled the plan violated a 2010 state constitutional amendment — known as the Fair Districts Amendment — that prohibited diminishing the ability of minority voters to “elect representatives of their choosing.”
The overall redistricting plan passed by the Republican-controlled legislature is expected to increase the number of GOP members of the state’s congressional delegation from 16 to 20, based on past voting patterns. District 5 is currently held by U.S. Representative Al Lawson, a black Democrat, but the revamped district would likely move to Republicans.
Smith’s temporary injunction ordered the use of a map that would retain the current sprawling shape of the district, which stretches from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee. Use of this map would also affect other districts.
The state quickly appealed Smith’s temporary injunction, which resulted in an automatic stay. Smith lifted that automatic stay, but the appeals court reimposed a stay on Friday.
The state’s underlying appeal of Smith’s temporary injunction remains pending in the 1st District Court of Appeals. But in reimposing the stay, the Tallahassee-based court signaled that it disagreed with the temporary injunction.
“Based on a preliminary review, the court has determined that there is a strong likelihood that the temporary injunction is unlawful, because by granting a preliminary remedy to the respondents (the plaintiffs) on their application, the order has frustrated the status quo, rather than preserved it,” the appeals court said, citing legal precedent.
The appeals court also cited “the exigency of the circumstances and the need for certainty and continuity as election season approaches”.
But in Monday’s Supreme Court filing, the plaintiffs also cited the approaching election season. A qualifying period for candidates will take place in mid-June, with primary elections on August 23.
“A recovery plan (the plan included in Smith’s temporary injunction) likely needs to be implemented in the coming weeks to ensure the 2022 congressional elections are held on time under a legal precinct plan. “, says the folder. “But the resolution of multiple appeals from the parties will make this deadline almost impossible to meet. Therefore, if the Petitioners (Plaintiffs) are to obtain relief, the Election Administrators must continue to prepare the Remedial Plan now to ensure that they are able to effect any relief granted by this (Supreme) Court. The First District’s preliminary order restoring the stay makes that impossible. »
The plaintiffs also filed a motion on May 13 for the underlying appeal to bypass the appeals court and move quickly to the Supreme Court, a decision known as a motion to “certify” the case to court. the Supreme Court.
But state attorneys on Monday urged the appeals court to deny the certification request. In a nine-page filing, they said the complainants’ ‘supposed need for urgent resolution falls flat. The Secretary (of State) has made it clear from the outset of this matter that it is already too late to provide relief for the 2022 election cycle.”