The Legislature begins its special Florida redistricting session today with a mandate from the House and Senate GOP leadership to pass Gov. Ron DeSantis’ preferred congressional map, which would maximize Republican advantages.
DeSantis vetoed the Legislature’s earlier map, claiming it relied too heavily on race in drawing a Duval-only 5th Congressional District. The redistricting committee chairmen and their staff had said the district would continue to allow Black voters to elect their preferred candidates while being more compact and honoring county lines.
But DeSantis threw it out in favor of a whiter, more Republican district where 40% of the district comes from Nassau and Clay counties. DeSantis’ veto memo argued that Florida’s Fair Districts standards, which incorporated Section 2 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, would violate the 14th Amendment.
While the Legislature’s special session is scheduled through Friday, many lawmakers expect the House and Senate to quickly approve DeSantis’ proposed map before the end of Wednesday.
If the Legislature does pass the map and it gets signed by DeSantis, that will end federal litigation over an earlier impasse, but it will also likely spark new lawsuits alleging DeSantis’ map is dilutes Black voters.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings, it appears unlikely that a court would block a map approved by the Legislature and DeSantis for at least this election.
DeSantis only mentioned the 5th District in his veto memo, but his proposed map redrew most of the state’s 28 districts.
DeSantis has said he wants the Legislature to pass a map that uses race-neutral redistricting criteria. But DeSantis’ own map still uses race when it benefits Republicans, in one case stretching a South Florida Hispanic district from Hialeah across the unpopulated Big Cypress National Preserve to Naples’ suburbs, making the 26th Congressional District even more Republican.
The Tributary’s new Florida redistricting interactive shows how the district goes across vast unpopulated land in order to draw the Republican Hispanic seat.
Redistricting staff previously said the district’s odd shape was because map drawers were trying to draw a district for Hispanic voters. DeSantis hasn’t explained why he believes it’s OK to draw some race-conscious districts but not others.
Courts have previously ruled that if map drawers made voters’ race or ethnicity a primary factor in redistricting, then they must be able to show that the specific minority group votes cohesively for specific preferred candidates.
The Legislature refused to release racial analyses performed by its own experts, and staff never said which candidates Latino voters supported. A UCLA study found that Latinos in Miami-Dade did not overall vote as a cohesive political bloc.