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Hearing set in North Florida redistricting fight

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson represents the 5th Congressional District in North Florida.
Office of Rep. Al Lawson
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson represents the 5th Congressional District in North Florida.

A Leon County circuit judge will hear arguments May 11 on a request to block a congressional redistricting plan that could affect minority representation in North Florida.

Judge Layne Smith scheduled the hearing on a motion for a temporary injunction filed by plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the plan pushed through the Legislature by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Republican lawmakers passed the plan during a special legislative session last week, after DeSantis vetoed an earlier redistricting proposal from the Legislature. Several groups, such as the League of Women Voters of Florida, and individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit April 22 and then requested the temporary injunction.

The motion contends that an overhaul of North Florida’s Congressional District 5 violates a 2010 constitutional amendment — known as the Fair Districts amendment — that sets standards for redistricting in the state.

District 5 in recent years has stretched from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee and has tied together Black communities to help elect a Black candidate. The district is held by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat.

DeSantis has contended that the sprawling district was unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and the plan passed last week would condense it in the Jacksonville area.

The motion for a temporary injunction argues that the new map violates part of the 2010 constitutional amendment that bars diminishing the ability of minority voters to “elect representatives of their choice.”