Redistricting spat could bring lawmakers back to Tallahassee

by | Mar 15, 2022



 

The 2022 Legislative Session may have wrapped up Monday afternoon, but Gov. Ron DeSantis could soon summon lawmakers to return to the state capitol to iron out the wrinkles in the ongoing redistricting dispute.

DeSantis in recent weeks 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 Democratic Representative Al Lawson. DeSantis’ map would likely provide the GOP with additional seats in Tallahassee. The proposal was criticized by opponents, claiming that Desantis is targeting black-held districts with an ambition to send the decision to courts.

The governor ultimately sought the legal advice of the Florida Supreme Court, which refused to provide counsel, as to whether his proposed redistricting plan would be valid in accordance with the Fair Districts standard that amended the practice of drawing congressional district boundaries in such ways that they establish equitable practices in districts with high concentrations of minority voters.

Now, DeSantis has held firm on his threat to veto any proposal that crosses his desk unless he gets his desired outcome, creating a precarious partisan rift between the governor and leaders Chris Sprowls and Wilton Simpson. Because of the political fallout, some speculate that a special session is in the cards.

“This is DeSantis’ M.O.: What he cares about, he cares about deeply. And if you get in his way, he’s going to roll through you,” Sen. Jeff Brandes told NBC. “Members don’t know him and don’t know what he’s going to do. And that not knowing is part of the reason they fear him. This whole session was a showcase for DeSantis — a trial balloon for a White House campaign — and nationally he’s a 600-pound gorilla with the possibility of becoming an 800-pound gorilla, especially if he gets his way with these maps.”

As of this week, Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now, and a small collective of Florida citizens filed a federal complaint in a U.S. District Court, adding another wrinkle to the fold, claiming that DeSantis’ committal to a veto is ‘additional judicial urgency.’

“Although the Legislature has proposed subsequent congressional maps in response to Gov. DeSantis’s pressures, the Governor has nevertheless made it clear that he will veto virtually any map that protects the voting rights of minorities and avoids partisan gerrymandering,” reads the complaint. “As a result, there is a significant likelihood that Florida’s political branches will fail to reach consensus to enact a lawful congressional district plan in time to be used in the upcoming 2022 elections.”

The lawsuit does, however, offer ‘a new constitutional and congressional plan’ as a solution to the stalemate. Though not offering a map of its own, the suit requests the judiciary branch “establish a schedule that will enable the Court to adopt and implement a new congressional district plan by a date certain.”

Of all the large-scale measures that DeSantis pushed for during Session, redistricting has been the one thorn in his side. With all sides locked into a standoff, the cartography process could prove to be long and drawn out, bleeding into the early weeks of summer.

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