Florida Senate Approves Governor DeSantis’ Congressional Map
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A new congressional map submitted by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office that will likely swing Florida’s representation in Washington even further toward the GOP was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday.
The House is expected to send the map back to the governor on Thursday, ending, for now, a protracted process by DeSantis’ veto over the maps the legislature originally sent him. Even supporters agree that a legal challenge will continue after the end of this week’s special session.
The vote was 24-15 along party lines, with Democrats arguing the governor’s office tweaked the map to benefit Republicans, while making it harder for black voters to elect black representatives.
“This map will favor Republicans in 70% of the districts,” said Democratic Senator Tina Polsky. “But Republicans make up 36% of registered voters in this state. So we’re going to have an incredible imbalance in this state, and that’s exactly what gerrymandering is, where the state doesn’t represent its constituents. I think that says a lot about the intent of the bill.
Currently, 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats represent Florida in the United States House. The DeSantis card could give the Republicans a 20-8 advantage. It would help DeSantis, who is a potential 2024 presidential candidate, if he wins the White House.
The Republican-dominated Legislature didn’t bother to make a second attempt to draw a map that DeSantis would approve of, but instead the leaders asked the governor to provide one. The Senate essentially approved it over objections from Democrats who said it was an excess of power by DeSantis.
“He’s a tyrant and tyrants don’t respect weakness. They only respect power and might, and if we keep doing that, it will only get worse,” said Democratic Senator Randolph Bracy.
LOOK: How 2020 census data sparked new gerrymandering battles
Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues, who chairs the Senate Redistribution Committee, defended the DeSantis card and the decision to accept it.
“We would be abdicating our responsibility if we failed to pass a map and allow the courts to do so. The governor has always played a role in the division. Not just Governor DeSantis, but every governor in the state of Florida, because no redistribution plan is complete for a congressional card until the governor signs it off,” Rodrigues said.
What is unprecedented, however, is that the Governor gives the Legislative Assembly a map to approve, rather than accepting a map drawn by the Legislative Assembly.
Rodrigues said the DeSantis map tracked state and federal constitutions better than the legislature did with vetoed maps.
“This map is as good if not better than the map I was so proud to present to you the first week of September,” he said. “I believe it is indeed a constitutional card.”
Florida adds a 28th congressional district due to population growth. Political maps are redrawn every ten years after the federal census.
Black lawmakers said the DeSantis map also dilutes black voters’ ability to elect candidates to represent them, and argued that two districts now held by black Democratic members of Congress will likely switch to Republicans. Senator Shevrin Jones said the cards are “trampling on marginalized people”.
“You have to do some self-reflection to know if we are doing the right thing. We just aren’t,” he said.
There are five members of the Black Florida House of the current 27, including a Republican from a predominantly white and staunchly Republican district.
GOP Sen. Kelli Stargel said the map does not hurt minorities’ chances of being elected.
“To say that these maps as they are drawn today harm minorities, I believe, is not accurate,” she said. “These are constitutional cards. I think they are very thoughtful. I don’t think any of us voting for them today are being racist or following the governor’s direct will. We respect our constitutional requirement.