CASE SUMMARY

On April 22, 2022, a coalition of civil and voting rights organizations and Florida voters filed a lawsuit against Florida's Secretary of State, Attorney General, Senate, House of Representatives, and legislative leaders challenging the state's congressional redistricting plan as violating various provisions of the Florida Constitution's Fair Districts Amendment (art. III, Section 20). First, they assert the plan violates the non-diminishment standard because it results in the diminishment of Black voters' ability to elect their candidates of choice, citing the changes made to Congressional District 5. Second, they assert the plan was intended to abridge or diminish minority voting strength by targeting minority populations in North Florida, Tampa Bay, and Central Florida to draw them out of "minority-opportunity" districts. Third, they allege the plan was drawn with an intent to favor the Republican Party and disfavor the Democratic Party, specifically citing the configuration of Congressional Districts 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 26, and 27. Fourth, they claim the plan contains districts which fail to comply with the compactness criterion, specifically Congressional Districts 7, 13, and 14. Finally, they assert several districts within the plan, namely Congressional Districts 4, 5, 13, and 14, fail to use political and geographic boundaries where feasible. They are seeking a judicial declaration that the plan and/or individual districts within the plan violate the Florida Constitution, an injunction barring the defendants from using or implementing the plan in future elections, and a court order requiring the state to adopt or otherwise adopting a new, constitutionally compliant plan.

On May 12, the circuit court granted the plaintiffs' request for a temporary injunction after finding the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim that Congressional District 5 in the enacted plan violates the non-diminishment standard under article III, Section 20 of the Florida Constitution. The court found that as enacted, District 5 would diminish the ability of Black voters to elect their candidates of choice in North Florida, that the application of the Florida Constitution's non-diminishment standard did not violate the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, and that the district's violation of this "tier-one" constitutional standard was controlling over the newly configured district's better compliance with the "tier-two" constitutional standards of compactness and respect for political subdivisions. The court barred the plan from being used in future elections and ordered the plaintiffs' proposed congressional map A, which only affects Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, be implemented for the 2022 elections. The defendants appealed this decision to the Florida District Court of Appeals the following day, thereby triggering an automatic stay of the Circuit Court's order pending appeal. On May 16, the circuit court granted the plaintiffs' emergency motion to vacate the automatic stay while the appeal is pending.

On May 20, the Florida District Court of Appeals issued an order reinstating the automatic stay while the appeal is pending, citing the exigency of the circumstances and the need for continuity and certainty as the election season approaches. On May 27, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion formally reinstating the stay on the injunction as the case proceeds, stating the temporary injunction was "very likely unlawful" as it was not being used for its purpose to "preserve the status quo." On June 17, the Court of Appeals issued its formal opinion striking down the temporary injunction as unlawful.

On May 23, the plaintiffs filed an emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court requesting the Court assume jurisdiction over the case, which the Court denied on June 2. On October 27, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims as to the compactness and respect for political subdivisions violations.

CASE LIBRARY

Florida Circuit Court, Leon County - No. 2022 CA 000666

Florida District Court of Appeal, First District - No. 1D22-1470 [Byrd v. Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Inst., Inc.]

Florida Supreme Court - No. SC22-685