The Florida Senate moved quickly on Wednesday to pass Gov. Ron DeSantis’ congressional map plan, setting the stage to adopt one of the nation’s most aggressive redistricting efforts that would likely provide four additional seats for state Republicans while eliminating three Democrat stronghold districts.
The map, which the Florida Senate approved 24 to 15 along party lines, was submitted by DeSantis after he committed to vetoing any version approved by state legislators that did not align with his own map.
The new proposal would create twenty seats that favor Republicans, and just eight that tilt toward Democrats, meaning the Florida GOP would, barring any surprises, hold seventy-one percent of congressional seats in Florida.
DeSantis in March submitted his own redistricting proposal, an action scarcely undertaken by a sitting governor, that would notably remove the North Florida Congressional District 5 currently held by Rep. Al Lawson.
“We have a responsibility to produce maps for our citizens that do not contain unconstitutional racial gerrymanders,” said DeSantis. “Today, I vetoed a map that violates the U.S. Constitution, but that does not absolve the Legislature from doing its job. I appreciate the Legislature’s willingness to work with me to pass a legally compliant map this Special Session.”
DeSantis’ proposal was criticized by opponents, with claims that the governor is targeting black-held districts with an ambition to send the decision to the courts.
“The Florida Legislature is caving to the intimidation of DeSantis and his desire to create additional Republican seats in Congress by eliminating minority-access districts,” said Lawson. “Previously, the Florida Supreme Court scolded the Florida Legislature for injecting partisan politics into the reapportionment process. Florida voters were hopeful that legislators would have learned their lesson. They did not. Again, I am not surprised, but disappointed with the Legislature’s inability to fulfill their constitutional duties as elected officials without political interference from DeSantis.”
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.”