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Hearing set in North Florida redistricting fight

Al Lawson.jpg
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.”