Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls officially deferred redistricting map drawing duties to Governor Ron DeSantis ahead of the upcoming redistricting special session. The move comes after in-party disagreements between lawmakers and DeSantis largely predicated on the Al Lawson-led Congressional District 5.
DeSantis in March submitted his own redistricting proposal, an action scarcely undertaken by a sitting governor, that would remove the North Florida Congressional District 5 currently held by Lawson.
DeSantis’ map would likely provide the GOP with additional seats in Tallahassee. Simpson and Sprowls previously committed to crafting a congressional map that can be supported by both lawmakers and DeSantis.
With the new relinquish of duty, DeSantis has full power over the final draft of maps, with the possibility to give Republicans an even stronger chokehold on state politics.
“At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not drafting or producing a map for introduction during the special session,” the memorandum reads. “We are awaiting a communication from the Governor’s Office with a map that he will support. Our intention is to provide the Governor’s Office opportunities to present that information before House and Senate redistricting committees.”
The governor sought legal advice from the Florida Supreme Court earlier this year as to whether his proposed redistricting plan would be valid in accordance with the Fair Districts standard.
Fair Districts amended the practice of drawing congressional district boundaries in such ways that they establish equitable practices in districts with high concentrations of minority voters. The State Supreme Court refused to administer advice to DeSantis.
“An opinion from this Court in the middle of the legislative process would necessarily interfere with the Legislature’s exclusive authority to craft the laws,” Florida’s Supreme Court said in a legal filing. “While the maps the Legislature might enact remain entirely hypothetical, the threat that the Request for an advisory opinion will draw the Court into the legislative process is not hypothetical. The Legislature is understandably reluctant to act when this Court might issue an opinion affecting its map-drawing powers.”
DeSantis’ newfound power to draw maps has received criticism from state legislators, including Jacksonville Representative Tracie Davis.
“Leadership is allowing the Governor to draw the new Congressional maps,” said Davis. “Last time I checked, I was elected to serve the people of Jacksonville, not Ron DeSantis. If he thinks we’re going to just accept his plan to disenfranchise Black voters in our community, he’s dead wrong.”
DeSantis recently took action in calling lawmakers back to Tallahassee to settle the ongoing redistricting spat, making it official during a press conference earlier this month. The special legislative session is intended to occur between April 19-22 to pass the federally required redistricting maps.