Sebastian Hughes, DCNF
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis scored a major political victory in his standoff with Republicans in the state legislature as they effectively handed him the power to determine Florida’s new Congressional districts.
DeSantis had vetoed two maps in March that were passed by fellow Republicans in the legislature, arguing they featured unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. The legislature will not draw a new map and will instead allow DeSantis to execute his vision for Florida’s new district lines, state House Speaker Chris Sprowls and state Senate President Wilton Simpson said in a memo to state lawmakers on Monday.
“At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not drafting or producing a map for introduction during the special session,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are awaiting a communication from the governor’s office with a map that he will support.”
“Like other general bills, the governor has a role in establishing congressional districts of the state,” it said. “Therefore, our goal during the special session is to pass a new congressional map that will both earn the Governor’s signature and withstand legal scrutiny, if challenged,” they added.
The map from DeSantis’ office would eliminate Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which critics of the governor’s proposal argue is protected by the Voting Rights Act, NPR reported.
At a press conference on Tuesday, DeSantis said any map that he signs will draw North Florida, where the 5th district is located, in a “race neutral manner.”
“We are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin,” DeSantis said. “That is wrong. That is not the way we’ve governed in the state of Florida.”
The Cook Political Report decreased the number of seats it projected Democrats to gain nationally from redistricting alone to one or two after court decisions affected the maps for Ohio and Maryland. DeSantis’ office proposed a map that would create 18 Republican-leaning seats and ten Democratic ones, while both maps passed by the legislature would have favored Republicans 16-12.
The ACLU of Florida admonished the legislature for relinquishing redistricting power in a statement on Tuesday, calling the move “unprecedented” and “undemocratic.”
“People should pick their politicians, not the other way around,” the group said.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond when asked to comment on the legislature’s decision.
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