‘Plaintiffs have shown a clear likelihood that the Enacted Plan violates their fundamental right to vote.’
A judge formally issued an order calling for a new congressional map to replace one signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but the state has already said an appeal is coming.
“Plaintiffs have shown a clear likelihood that the Enacted Plan violates their fundamental right to vote and ‘enjoining the enforcement of a law that encroaches on a fundamental constitutional right’ presumptively ‘would serve the public interest,’” Smith wrote.
The order keeps with the direction Smith offered at the hearing, and formally issuing a document sets into motion a certain appeals process.
A group of minority groups backed by former Attorney General Eric Holder filed a complaint in state courts last month saying the new map, among other concerns, diminishes the ability of Black voters to elect a congressional representative of their choice. Groups including Black Voters Matter, Equal Ground and the League of Women Voters are represented by Democratic attorney Marc Elias’ firm, among others. Elias’ Democracy Docket group released Smith’s order on its website.
With the state Primary scheduled for Aug. 23 and the qualification period for congressional candidates beginning June 13, plaintiffs argued in court that running midterms under the new lines would cause voters irreversible harm.
With the limited time frame, attorneys argued this week for Smith to issue an injunction, but asked only for him to take actions in North Florida. That’s where the DeSantis map controversially dismantles the previous configuration of Florida’s 5th Congressional District, represented now by Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson. Critics of the map say that spreads almost 370,000 Black Floridians who now make up 49% of that congressional district and puts them in North Florida jurisdictions with between 12% and 25% Black makeup.
The judge agreed with that argument, and ordered an alternative map submitted by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere be implemented instead. That will only impact five seats, Florida’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Congressional Districts. Those will take a shape as they appeared on a fallback map (H 8015) passed by the Legislature but ultimately vetoed by DeSantis.
That map leaves most of the DeSantis map (P 0109) in place but reconfigures the North Florida area. That means keeping a district closely analogous to the one represented by Lawson now that stretched from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, hugging the state’s northern border and covering Gadsden County, Florida’s only majority Black county.
With the order filed, attorneys for the state have promised to promptly appeal the decision. That should automatically trigger a stay, meaning Smith’s decision would go on hold, and Smith said in a hearing he will vacate the stay.
The bottom line is the matter still most likely will be heard again shortly. Either an appellate panel hears the case or it will be forwarded directly to the Florida Supreme Court.
Attorneys for the state have adopted DeSantis’ argument for vetoing the Legislature’s maps. The Governor has argued Lawson’s district was drawn with race as the primary motivating factor, and that in doing so it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Because the district, despite spanning over 200 miles, still falls short of being 50% minority, the state argues it likely won’t withstand strict scrutiny if it gets challenged on federal grounds.
The configuration, though, was first implemented by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 when it tossed maps drawn passed by the Legislature in 2012. That ruling loomed large both for lawmakers, who considered it accepted law the district lines adhered with state law and constitutional requirements. Smith also signaled reluctance in the hearing this week to determine the state Supreme Court erred in its ruling just five years ago.
Since that ruling, DeSantis has appointed replacements for three of the state Supreme Court justices, leading some to predict the court may be willing to accept his arguments.
But his argument appears to run contrary to language about diminishing minority voting power that appears in the Florida Constitution, a dispute that ultimately may need to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Of course, attorneys for the state also argue that the diminishment standard doesn’t truly apply in the North Florida lines anyhow. The Legislature’s analysts considered the district a Black performing one because it leans Democratic and Black voters make up a majority of the primary electorate. Attorneys for the state argued in court that in fact, that only goes to show the seat was gerrymandered to favor Democrats, which violates a Fair Districts prohibition on cartography drawn to favor a political party.
The only matter courts will seek to settle before the midterms involves the lines in North Florida. While the lawsuit challenges the entire map, that will be dealt with in a full trial that could take years to unfold.
The map submitted by Ansolabehere includes 19 congressional districts where Republican Donald Trump won the 2020 Presidential Election and nine where Democrat Joe Biden prevailed. By comparison, the DeSantis map had 20 Trump seats. Trump won Florida by 3 percentage points.
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Former Goldman CEO Warns of Potential Recession: ‘Very, Very High Risk Factor’
Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein warned the United States could plunge into a recession.
“Do you think we’re headed towards recession?” @margbrennan asks Goldman Sachs Senior Chairman Lloyd Blankfein amid U.S. inflation.
“It’s definitely a risk…If I were a consumer, I’d be prepared for it, but it’s not baked in the cake.” pic.twitter.com/IehxU4wSo6
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 15, 2022
A transcript is as follows:
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think we’re headed towards recession?
LLOYD BLANKFEIN: We’re certainly heading — it’s a very, very high risk factor. There’s a path, a narrow path, but I think the Fed has very powerful tools. It’s hard to finely tune them and hard to see the effects of them quickly enough to alter it. But I think they are responding well. It’s definitely a risk. If I was running a big company I would be very prepared for it. If I was a consumer, I would prepared for it. But it’s not baked in the cake.
White House Claims Baby Formula Shortage a Top Priority Since February After Joe Biden Claimed Ignorance of Problem
The White House claimed President Joe Biden’s administration made the baby formula shortage crisis a top priority as early as February, even though the president claimed ignorance of the problem on Thursday.
“This is something he is focusing on very acutely and again I said 24/7 we’ve been working on this since we have learned about this back in February,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during the daily briefing about Biden, calling the issue “one of the presidents top priorities.”
Biden bristled when asked by reporters on Friday if he could have acted sooner to fix the crisis.
“If we had been better mind readers, I guess we could’ve, but we moved as the problem became apparent to us,” Biden said.
The president did not even personally mention the crisis until Friday, despite weeks of reports highlighting the problem.
“I’ll answer the baby formula question because, all of a sudden, it’s on the front page of every newspaper,” Biden grumbled on Friday.
He announced the launch of a new government website to help parents locate baby formula in stores, but it was beset by extremely long hold times and unhelpful information.
Jean-Pierre alluded to a comment from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Bacerra claiming the Biden administration had been working on the issue since February and even as early as last year in 2021.
CNN: “You are satisfied with the government’s response throughout [the baby formula shortage]?”
HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra: “FDA has kept me apprised of this from LAST YEAR. We have been moving as quickly as we can” pic.twitter.com/5WRZa5chYg
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 16, 2022
“You’ve heard us talk about this, you’ve heard colleagues talking about what we have done since February,” Jean-Pierre said. “We’ve been working on this 24/7.”
Jean-Pierre refused to offer a timeline for when supplies of baby formula would return to normal.
“What I can say is there are a lot of dates floating around out there,” she said.
Joe Biden Botches Name of Hero Killed in Buffalo Shooting Aaron Salter Jr.
President Joe Biden struggled Monday with the correct pronunciation of the name of Aaron Salter Jr., a heroic ex-cop and security guard who died Saturday confronting the Buffalo mass shooting suspect.
“We pay tribute to all law enforcement officers and their families who understand what it takes, what’s at risk, to save and protect all of us,” Biden said. “That includes paying tribute to the Buffalo police officer Aaron Salder — Slater, excuse me — who gave his life trying to save others.”
Biden spoke about Salter during a Public Safety Officer Medals of Valor ceremony at the White House for law enforcement and public safety officials.
Salter was a Buffalo police officer for 30 years before retiring in 2022 and taking a security job at the Tops Friendly Market where the shooting took place.
Salter hit the alleged shooter with at least one round from his pistol, but it was blocked by the alleged shooter’s bulletproof armor. Salter was later shot and killed during the attack.
“You’re the heart and soul and very spine of this country and communities,” Biden continued, praising the public safety officials in the room.
During the ceremony, Biden also botched the name of Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat congressman from New York.
“Excuse me. You can call me ‘Bidden,’” Biden joked, mispronouncing his own name. “We’ve known each other so long and I still stumbled. I apologize.”
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