Florida state

Florida redistricting plan faces opposition from DeSantis

This week, Florida state senators offered a rare hint of bipartisan agreement on a plan to redraw the boundaries of a swing state’s congressional district in a way that appeases both majority Republicans and minority Democrats — and, likely, a state Supreme Court that is watching the two carefully.

But a last-minute intervention from an unusual source — Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisNewspaper crosses a hard line to ‘punish’ a class of AmericansOfficials say starving manatees in Florida have started eating lettuce on an emergency basis Trans rights under attack: Persecution should end now MORE (R) – Triggered what could have been a smooth finish to a bumpy process, adding what amounts to another round of an already long run just as lawmakers thought they were nearing the line. arrival.

DeSantis offered his own version of a map this week, which would likely give his party control of 17 of the 28 seats in Congress for the next decade while guaranteeing Democrats eight seats. The remaining three seats would be narrowly split between the two parties.

In a statement, the governor’s top lawyer said DeSantis’ proposal would more closely adhere to state and federal redistricting rules.

“We have submitted an alternative proposal, which we can support, that meets federal and state requirements, while striving to increase district compactness, minimize county splits where possible, and protect voting populations. minority interests,” General Counsel Ryan Newman said.

Newman hinted that DeSantis might veto a map that didn’t suit his tastes: “Because the Governor must approve any Congressional map passed by the Legislative Assembly, we wanted to provide our proposal as soon as possible and in a way transparent,” the attorney said.

But days later, the state Senate passed its own map, one that divides the state’s 28-member delegation into 14 districts with strong Republican majorities, eight that favor Democrats and six that would be competitive.

This version passed the Senate in a 31-4 vote, with five members not voting, despite objections from Latino advocacy groups who say it unduly dilutes their voting power. Republicans control 24 of the 40 state Senate seats.

Legislature Republicans declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment, in part for fear that their words could be used against them in possible lawsuits that are sure to happen no matter which party. who wins.

But Democrats who voted for the Senate-passed plan said they were surprised at DeSantis’ intervention, which came after the legislature worked for months on its own plans.

“What his card was, at the last minute, we didn’t know. He just sent this card and wanted us to take it,” State Sen. Linda Stewart (D) said. “I don’t know what authority he had to do that, but I can tell you he only had, I don’t know if it was 72 hours or a limited time for a senator to pick up his card, and no one did.”

The rival maps contain several glaring differences, among them the borders around the heavily populated areas of Orlando, Tampa and Miami. Importantly, DeSantis’ map eliminates a Democratic district that stretches from Tallahassee to the Jacksonville area along the Georgia border, currently represented by Rep. Al LawsonAlfred (Al) James LawsonDeSantis proposes redistricting map of Florida Florida Democrats ask DeSantis to accept federal aid to expand COVID-19 testing Harris assistant to become executive director of Black Caucus MORE (D).

The Senate-approved map maintains Lawson’s district as a majority-minority seat, similar to the one the Florida Supreme Court established before the 2016 election and is at least vaguely reminiscent of a district that’s been around since the 1960s, except a few years – albeit a district that has shrunk geographically as Florida’s population has exploded.

The Senate proposal has now made its way to the State House, where majority Republicans have proposed two different maps, both of which favor Republicans more than the Senate version while preserving Lawson’s district.

DeSantis supporters argue that Lawson’s district represents an unconstitutional gerrymander because it stretches so far east and west between North Florida’s two population centers.

But the last-minute dispute is likely to throw a wrench in what might otherwise have been minor negotiations between the two legislative chambers.

“The governor injecting himself into this, I think, adds more uncertainty,” said Michael McDonald, a redistricting expert at the University of Florida who clashed with DeSantis. “If DeSantis wants to fight with the legislature, we could see a fight, because it looks like the legislative leadership in the Senate didn’t want to go along with the governor on this.”

Above the debate, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010 sought to limit partisan influence in the redistricting process. The state Supreme Court ruled that a redistricting map passed by Republicans the following year failed to meet those standards, forcing a new map that gave Democrats several new seats mid-decade.

But in the years since, DeSantis and his predecessor, now Sen. Rick Scott (R), have appointed four new justices to the state’s highest court, ceding jurisdiction over the Fair Districts standard to what is likely a more conservative court.

“We don’t really know how much this Republican court will tolerate any panky handkerchief the districts have,” McDonald said.

Stewart, the Senate Democrat, said the map she voted on was designed to withstand judicial scrutiny.

“Ours will meet the demands of justice,” Stewart said in an interview. “What his card was, at the last minute, we didn’t know. He just sent this card and wanted us to take it.