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Special legislative session called to reassess redistricting maps

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This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis followed through with his threat to veto two different redistricting maps created by the state Legislature.

The maps kept in place a minority access district in North Florida. Impacted seats include District 5 held by Democrat Al Lawson and District 10 held by Central Florida Rep. Val Demings.

Lawmakers say the new boundaries comply with the state Constitution, which states that political districts cannot be drawn to favor any party or to deny minorities equal opportunity to elect their representatives.

DeSantis argues that both maps violate the US Constitution. The 14th Amendment includes the equal protection clause.

Congressman Al Lawson, whose 5th Congressional District would be redrawn, says it's "absurd" for the governor to cite a post-Civil War amendment aimed at addressing racial disparities.

State lawmakers must now return to Tallahassee for a four-day special session, beginning April 19. And the focus will be on where to put political lines on the map.

Meanwhile, a federal judge struck down portions of a Florida election law passed last year, saying in a ruling Thursday that the law uses subtle tactics to suppress Black voters.

The law tightened rules on mailed ballots, drop boxes and other popular election methods — changes that made it more difficult for Black voters who, overall, have more socioeconomic disadvantages than white voters, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in his ruling.

Florida's Republican-led Legislature joined several others around the country in passing election reforms after Republican former President Donald Trump made unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Democrats have called such reforms a partisan attempt to keep some voters from the ballot box.

DeSantis, who made the election bill a priority, said the state will appeal Walker's decision.

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Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.