OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is on course to singlehandedly alter the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives if he gets his way.
Earlier this week, Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature essentially turned over the state’s redistricting following the 2020 Census to the governor in what appeared to be an unprecedented move.
“At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not drafting or producing a map for introduction during the special session,” state Senate President Wilton Simpson and state House Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a joint statement.
“We are awaiting a communication from the Governor’s Office with a map that he will support. Our intention is to provide the Governor’s Office opportunities to present that information before House and Senate redistricting committees,” they added.
The Washington Examiner reported further:
DeSantis vetoed a map the Legislature sent him late last month after which lawmakers agreed to hold a special session from April 19-22 to draw a new map. The announcement Monday comes as the state is approaching the June 17 deadline for prospective candidates for federal office without a map. The state’s primary election is slated to take place in August.
When he issued the veto, DeSantis argued the map the Legislature sent him violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by preserving a racially gerrymandered district favorable to Democrats. Many outside observers noted DeSantis had been lobbying the Legislature for months to pass a map with more GOP-friendly lines. The Legislature’s map would have likely given Republicans an 18-10 advantage, up from the current 16-11 split, per Florida Politics.
Now, it appears as though DeSantis has produced a map that, if it withstands legal challenges, would essentially eliminate up to four districts currently held by Democrats — enough to wipe out the gain, nationally, that Democrats have made in the House through redistricting in blue states.
“The DeSantis administration formally submitted its plan Wednesday to the GOP-controlled Legislature where leaders in that chamber have already signaled they would accept whatever proposal was offered to them,” Politico reported.
“Wednesday’s move is a signal of the power DeSantis wields in the now-Republican-dominated state. Redistricting in Florida may help shape the composition of the U.S. House for at least the next decade,” Politico added.
The new map effectively targets seats held by Democratic Reps. Al Lawson, Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy, and potentially Val Demings.
Politico noted further:
DeSantis has asserted for weeks that Lawson’s current seat — which stretches from Jacksonville to just west of Tallahassee — runs afoul of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions because it was drawn to guarantee the election of a Black candidate. The new map instead comes up with two new Jacksonville-centered districts that were won by former President Donald Trump.
The governor’s map not only removes Lawson’s district, but his proposal would also remake the Orlando-area central Florida seat now held by Rep. Val Demings so white voters would make up the largest portion of Democratic primary voters, according to an analysis by Matthew Isbell, a Democratic data consultant.
“If this 20R-8D FL map passes and withstands court challenges, it could net Republicans four additional seats, entirely wiping out Dems’ national redistricting gains thus far,” Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races as a senior editor at The Cook Political Report, wrote in a tweet.
If this 20R-8D FL map passes and withstands court challenges, it could net Republicans four additional seats, entirely wiping out Dems’ national redistricting gains thus far. https://t.co/7MU6BaPrDM
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) April 13, 2022
Naturally, state Democrats are upset.
“It is appalling, but not surprising, that the Republican Legislature has abdicated its constitutional duty to draft and pass congressional maps to the governor,” Manny Diaz, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, complained in a statement.
“As proven by the proposed map released today, Gov. DeSantis is hell-bent on eliminating congressional seats where Florida’s minority communities have the ability to elect representatives of their choice and he is imposing his own partisan political preferences on Florida’s congressional map,” he added.
Democrats have already vowed to challenge Florida’s redistricting map in court.