Common Cause v. Lee

Voting Rights

Case Summary: On Friday, March 11, nonprofit government accountability organization Common Cause and the advocacy group FairDistrictsNow, alongside 5 voters, filed an “impasse” lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and state leadership in the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division. The plaintiffs are represented by local attorneys, Patterson Belknap, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The “impasse,” One Person One Vote litigation argues that the state Legislature has little hope of overriding a veto, and because last decade’s Congressional districts no longer have equal populations — and a new 28th district has not been drawn — the courts must ensure a new map goes into effect. A similar lawsuit was filed in state court the Elias Law Group.

Status: On April 21, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ congressional map, which eliminates a Black ability-to-elect district in Jacksonville and creates 20 Trump-won seats versus eight Biden seats, passed during the legislature’s special session on a party-line vote. The new map invalidates our federal impasse lawsuit, but Democratic lawyer Marc Elias promised another would come soon. On April 22, NDRC/Elias Group filed on behalf of state and national voting rights groups a state lawsuit challenging FL’s districts.

Why it’s important: Our lawsuit makes clear that Governor Ron Desantis has repeatedly and inappropriately inserted himself into the Congressional redistricting process, and with each intervention, the Legislature’s proposed maps have deviated further and further from the required constitutional standards. The lawsuit argues that if a map isn’t put in place soon, voters will suffer because they won’t know which candidates to support — since candidates don’t know what districts to file for or even if they should file until a map is in place — and it limits voters’ ability to hold potential representatives accountable. Most importantly, the proposed maps, influenced by Governor DeSantis, threaten the ability of Black voters to elect candidates of their choice in Congressional districts centered around a Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee strip, and another in the Orlando area.