DeSantis vows to upend status quo to deliver black seat, opposes ‘unconstitutional’ gerrymandering

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While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is generally beloved by his state’s citizens, it appears the love doesn’t run quite as deep between him and the GOP-led Florida Legislature.

Currently at issue are competing concerns over the state’s redistricting maps. DeSantis wants to design them one way, whereas the Legislature has another design in mind.

The battle reached a fevered pitch last Friday when the governor threatened to veto the maps that have been passed by the Florida House and Florida Senate.

“We will not be signing any congressional map that has an unconstitutional gerrymander in it, and that is going to be the position that we stick to. So just take that to the bank,” DeSantis said at a presser, according to the Miami Herald.

The Legislature’s redistricting maps keep the district of Rep. Al Lawson, a Democrat, intact, but the governor is seeking to divide the district in a move that critics expect would be a boon for Republicans.

Whereas the current map contains 16 Republican-leading and 12 Democrat-leaning seats, the map sought by the governor would boast 18 Republican-leaning and only 10 Democrat-leaning seats.

The Legislature is reportedly concerned that breaking apart Lawson’s district would violate the FairDistricts amendments, a set of laws adopted by Florida voters in 2010.

“The amendments require legislators to draw maps that do not favor incumbents or political parties and protect minority voting strength,” according to the Herald.

To address these concerns, DeSantis asked the Florida Supreme Court to take a look at his map and provide an “advisory opinion,” but last Thursday the court decided to reject the request for now, arguing that its scope is too broad, according to Politico.

“This court’s advisory opinions to the governor are generally limited to narrow questions. Here, the scope of the governor’s request is broad and contains multiple questions that implicate complex federal and state constitutional matters and precedents interpreting the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” the court said.

“While this court acknowledges the importance of the issues presented by the Governor and the expressed need for quick resolution and finality, history shows that the constitutionality of a final redistricting bill for all congressional districts will be subject to more judicial review through subsequent challenges in court.”

In other words, the court wanted DeSantis to go through the normal process of first submitting a map and then letting it run through the court system.

Speaking with NBC News, a so-called “restricting expert” from the Brennan Center for Justice, Michael Li, said the Florida Legislature is seeking to maintain the status quo, power-wise, likely because they want to avoid another big public skirmish. The last major skirmish over redistricting in Florida occurred sometime in the early 2010s.

“In 2012, a coalition of Democrat-leaning voting rights groups, led by the League of Women Voters of Florida, sued on behalf of several individual voters who accused lawmakers of unfairly drawing maps that protected incumbent lawmakers and Republicans,” according to the Herald.

“For the next three years, lawmakers battled over whether legislators could be put under oath to discuss the maps and whether the emails of Republican political operatives working with the House and Senate leaders could be made part of the record. The Florida Supreme Court made history in 2014 when it ruled that legislators could be deposed in the case, and the documents from the operatives would have to be turned over.”

But as an apparent maverick, DeSantis is willing to take the risk and would rather upend the status quo, even if it means going toe to toe with Democrats. What he did not expect, however, was having to go toe to toe with his own party.

That being said, his critics on the left have seized on his move to claim that he’s trying to dilute black votes:

But the governor’s general counsel, Ryan Newman, says that’s not the case.

According to The Washington Post, Newman’s argued that the current map as it exists is a “flagrant gerrymander” because of the way it was designed.

“The current map was crafted in 2015 by a panel of judges who determined a previous iteration by the legislature was overtly partisan,” the Post notes.

This is true. In December of 2015, the Florida Supreme Court approved a congressional map that was designed “by a coalition led by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause of Florida and several Democrat-leaning individuals,” as reported then by the Herald.

It was thus essentially designed by the left, despite the Florida House and Florida Senate having been under GOP control.


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Vivek Saxena


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