TALLAHASSE, FL (Sept. 26, 2023) — Today in federal court, Common Cause Florida and plaintiffs began arguments in the trial over the state’s gerrymandered 2022 congressional voting map. In the case, Common Cause Florida et al v. Byrd, the plaintiffs argue Gov. Ron DeSantis pressured state lawmakers to approve voting districts that rob North Florida’s Black voters of the right to elect a candidate of their choice, discriminating against them on the basis of race.
The trial, expected to last up to two weeks, began with attorney Gregory Baker of Patterson Belknap LLP presenting opening arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs. Before the three-judge panel, Baker described how the congressional map unlawfully discriminates against Black voters. The map violates the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and marks the first time without a Black opportunity district in North Florida since 1992.
The federal trial that began today comes after the state appealed Leon County Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh’s decision earlier in the month in a state redistricting case. Marsh ruled that the 2022 congressional voting map violated part of the Florida Constitution. The voting rights groups in both cases seek a remedy to the unconstitutional map ahead of the 2024 presidential election year.
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the NAACP Office of General Counsel, and Bedell, Dittmar, DeVault, Pillans & Coxe are representing plaintiffs in the federal case, Common Cause Florida et al v. Byrd. The plaintiffs include Common Cause Florida, FairDistricts Now, the NAACP Florida State Conference, and a number of individual voters. Common Cause Florida Program Director Amy Keith is expected to take the stand on behalf of plaintiffs later in the trial.
Below are statements from the organizational plaintiffs in no particular order:
“FairDistricts has spent the last 15 years working to secure fairness in districting for all Floridians. The 2022 Congressional map is the most biased we have seen in decades and its treatment of Black voters in North Florida flies in the face of our efforts to secure equal representation regardless of race or country of origin. We bring this lawsuit in an effort to right this wrong and restore fairness to North Florida voters,” said Ellen Freidin, chair of FairDistricts Now.
“We are looking forward to our day in court to stand up for freedom and to push back against the break-up of North Florida Black communities in an attempt to reduce our political power. We will fight together and demand to elect the representative of our choice and the respect we deserve,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference.
“We are taking the DeSantis Administration and state lawmakers to court for denying Black voters in North Florida their freedom to choose their representative in Congress. Common Cause Florida will never let such brazen and unconstitutional discrimination in our voting processes go unchallenged. Black voters in Florida have a right to have their votes and voices count in free and fair elections,” said Amy Keith, program director of Common Cause Florida.
To learn more about the case, click here.
For live updates from our team in the courtroom, click here.
Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Common Cause Florida is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization working for open, honest, and accountable government.