Florida Senate Bends Knee, Passes DeSantis’ Gerrymandered Congressional Map

For Florida Republicans, the legislative session borrowed from an emotionally charged agenda set in part by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential presidential candidate for 2024, here at a COVID-19 vaccination drive on Feb.... For Florida Republicans, the legislative session borrowed from an emotionally charged agenda set in part by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential presidential candidate for 2024, here at a COVID-19 vaccination drive on Feb. 4, 2021, in Aventura, Florida. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) MORE LESS

The Florida Senate has approved along party lines a heavily gerrymandered congressional map after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vetoed the legislature’s proposal and demanded the erasure of a plurality-Black district in North Florida. 

The map, proposed by DeSantis himself, would likely give the Republican Party control of more than 70% of the state’s congressional districts. By contrast, Donald Trump won 51% of Floridians’ votes in 2020, an outcome in line with other recent elections in the state. 

The governor’s map is set to be approved by the state House tomorrow, and then signed into law.

The Republican gerrymander was achieved in part by slicing up two districts currently represented by Black Democratic Reps. Al Lawson and Val Demings, the latter of whom is challenging Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for his seat in November. 

Rather than fight with the governor to preseve the legislature’s traditional role in map-drawing, Florida’s Republican lawmakers rolled over and asked DeSantis to draw his own congressional districts after he vetoed the legislature’s proposal. That legislative proposal had sought to create a smaller majority of Republican-leaning districts, more in line with Florida’s recent voting trends.

The legislature’s maps would have likely given Republicans the edge in 16 out of 28 districts. DeSantis’ map bumps Republicans’ holdings to 20, leaving only 8 to Democrats. 

Lawson’s district, which runs along Florida’s border with Georgia, has been in DeSantis’ sights for a while. The district was created by the Florida Supreme Court after Florida Republicans’ last attempt at a partisan gerrymander, which ended in a ruling in reformers’ favor. 

But the governor has called Lawson’s district “racially gerrymandered” and said that his own proposal is “race neutral.” (Lawson’s district, under DeSantis’ plan, would be split into multiple districts that favor Republicans.)

“I didn’t draw a single district in this map based on race,” DeSantis’ deputy chief of staff and mapmaker, Alex Kelly, told legislators Tuesday.

“If we were truly doing a race-neutral map, we’d start in the Panhandle and have a series of squares and go down the state,” state Sen. Lori Berman (D) told Florida Politics. “We’re not doing that. We’re doing a gerrymandered map based on the Governor’s directions.”

For their part, legal challengers have already suggested alternate plans. The map approved by the state Senate Wednesday included $1 million to cover potential litigation expenses; last time, lawmakers spent $11 million to litigate their maps. 

DeSantis has said that he thinks the courts will stand with him this time around. 

“I think our dispute very well may lead to saying that Florida’s redistricting amendments are not consistent with the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause,” he said in March, referring to anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendments approved by the vast majority of Floridians in 2010. 

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