In the Supreme Court of Florida
BLACK VOTERS MATTER CAPACITY BUILDING INSTITUTE, INC., et al., Petitioners,
CORD BYRD, in his official capacity as Florida Secretary of State, et al., Respondents.
On Emergency Petition for a Constitutional Writ DCA No. 1D22-1470; Cir. No. 2022-CA-0666 RESPONSE TO EMERGENCY PETITION FOR A CONSTITUTIONAL WRIT
Response by Attorney General Ashley Moody, Counsel for the Attorney General, Counsel for Secretary of State
In a recent Florida Supreme Court case between a coalition group Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute and the Florida Secretary of State on the redistricting plans for the upcoming August 2022 primary election season. The Secretary of State and the Attorney General of Florida both made impressive decisions on the rights of Floridians to vote for their elected official. It was the intention of the coalition group Black Voters Matter to "hold" a Black House of Representative Seat held by Al Lawson in district 5. The redistricting plans made by the special legislative session provided the new district plan which was signed by the Governor of Florida. The case discusses the intention of the Black Voters Matter to appeal the high court on the rights of Black voters in district 5. Although their argument was compelling in many cases and has drawn the attention on a national platform. The high court has denied the constitutional right to writ.
"Petitioners’ request for a constitutional writ is denied. “[T]he doctrine of all writs is not an independent basis for this Court’s jurisdiction,” but instead “is restricted to preserving jurisdiction that has already been invoked or protecting jurisdiction that likely will be invoked in the future.” Roberts v. Brown, 43 So. 3d 673, 677 (Fla. 2010). Here Petitioners ask this Court to intervene in the First District Court of Appeal’s ongoing consideration of an appeal of an order imposing a temporary injunction. At this time, this Court does not have jurisdiction over that matter."
Certain matters of the Supervisors of Elections offices would put their internal processes in jeopardy if the enacted plan were to be stopped.
"Supervisor Brown and Mr. Phillips explained that imposing a new congressional district map at this late juncture would cause significant disruptions. App. 798–806. Supervisor Brown put it bluntly: “[It] is not possible” to implement a new map in time for forthcoming elections. App. 800. Implementing a new map would force her to redo weeks-worth of work at an added expense of another $30,000; to spend $35,000 in printing fees to update voter cards; and to resubmit her precinct maps to the board of county commissioners. App. 800—01. Mr. Phillips expressed similar concerns. He stated that if a new map is imposed, the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office would have to expend significant resources to analyze changes to the Enacted Plan, to ensure quality control to avoid misassigning voters to districts, and to submit precinct changes to the Jacksonville City Council. App. 804–06. Mr. Phillips stated that it would take about six weeks for the council to approve the precinct changes. Id. Simply put, “imposing a new map at this late juncture would increase the chances of administrative mistakes, programming errors, and candidate and voter confusion.” App. 806."
Similar responses were regarded from other Supervisors of Election officials across the state in the Secretary of State and Attorney General's collection of testimonies. The enacted plan drew some evaluative criteria from the State Attorney General and the Secretary of State, one of which was:
"Substantial likelihood of success.
The court first found that the Enacted Plan diminished Black voters’ ability to elect a candidate of their choice in North Florida, violating Section 20’s nondiminishment standard. App. 15–18. The court then rejected the Secretary’s Equal Protection Clause arguments. U.S. Supreme Court precedent explains that if race was the predominant factor motivating the “decision to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district,” BethuneHill, 137 S. Ct. at 797 (citation omitted), strict scrutiny must be satisfied. But the court, applying the “‘presumption of good faith that must be accorded legislative enactments,’” App. 19 (quoting Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 916 (1995)), determined that race did not predominate in Plan 8015’s CD 5 because the Legislature included the district merely “to comply with the Florida Supreme Court’s prior rulings regarding CD-5,” to “avoid litigation,” and to track state legislative districts. App. 19–20. Yet the court simultaneously held that 8015’s configuration of CD 5 is necessary to ensure minority voters’ continued ability to elect candidates of their choice and to otherwise address the history of voting-related racial discrimination in North Florida. App. 21. In other words, the court determined that race did not predominate in drawing CD 5, but that drawing CD 5 along racial lines was “necessary.” The court also held that CD 5 survives strict scrutiny. It reasoned that compliance with Section 20—which is modeled after Section 5 of the VRA—is itself a compelling interest, as is remedying the effects of past racial discrimination. App. 20–21. It then held that CD 5 was narrowly tailored to further these goals because there were “good reasons” to think that CD 5 was needed to achieve the court’s desired racial balance. App. 21"
In recent Florida history cases on voting rights and voting protection has drawn the interest of the public for who they believe should sit in certain seats of government. The People's voice governed by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General weights the current and future interpretations and jurisdictions that the judicial system takes on.
"Petitioners have claimed that a racially gerrymandered CD 5 advances three compelling interests: (1) compliance with the nondiminishment standard, (2) remedying the effects of past racial discrimination, and (3) preventing present-day racial discrimination. Resp. to Reinstatement Mot. 43–47. The circuit court accepted the first and second justifications but said nothing of the third. App. 20– 21. At any rate, Petitioners have failed to show that these interests are compelling in these circumstances."
The motion of the state government determined that these three evaluative criteria presented by the Black Voters Matter coalition was facially insufficient based on their research and the necessities of the Supervisors of election offices across the state. Since the petitioners were not able to provide sufficient evidence to the State's argument, the group was denied the constitutional writ. Although, there may be many cases on the civil liberties of minority groups in Florida, this cases has expanded the ideologies of our government to project more racial inclusion to voting matters. In the future of Florida government, we can expect the State to regard matters of race through sufficient factual evidence instead of the word of mere expert analysis.