Black lawmakers protest as the state legislature approves Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposal to change the map of the US Congress.
A new Florida congressional map proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis has been approved by the Republican-led state legislature, creating a likely advantage for Republicans in Florida in the November U.S. election.
The map, which sets voting limits for members of Congress, is expected to increase the number of Republicans representing Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives to 20 to 16. Democrats risk losing three House seats, dropping from 11 to eight, political analysts mentioned.
Democrats have protested the new Congressional map as the product of intentional partisan “gerrymandering” that will make it harder for black candidates to run for office.
Florida’s congressional map was redrawn as part of a nationwide redistricting process in the United States in which seats in the United States House of Representatives are redistributed to reflect changing demographics. Florida adds one seat due to population growth following the 2020 census.
Black lawmakers staged a sit-in on the floor of the Florida House on Thursday as the map debate drew to a close. State Representatives Angie Nixon and Tray McCurdy opened their suit jackets to display “Stop The Black Attack” t-shirts and shouted the same phrase.
They sat on the state seal in front of the Speaker’s rostrum and were soon joined by other black Democrats and other supporters.
But after a brief delay, the Republican-controlled legislature gave final approval to DeSantis’ proposed map. The state Senate had approved the map in a vote of 24 to 15 along party lines during a special session on Wednesday.
If the DeSantis plan withstands legal challenges, it would offset gains made by Democrats in redistricting plans in states such as Illinois and New York. The Republican governor’s plan could see two of Florida’s five black members of the US House lose their seats.
State Sen. Shevrin Jones said the cards are “trampling on marginalized people.”
“You have to do some self-reflection to know if we are doing the right thing. We just aren’t,” Jones said.
Republican State Sen. Kelli Stargel argued that DeSantis’ new card would not hurt minorities’ chances of being elected. “To say that these maps, as they are drawn today, harm minorities, I believe, is not accurate,” she said.
“These are constitutional cards. I think they are very thoughtful. I don’t think any of us voting for them today are being racist or following the governor’s direct will. We respect our constitutional requirement.
Florida’s process of passing the new congressional map has been fraught with pitfalls and legal battles.
DeSantis, who is a potential 2024 presidential candidate, vetoed in March a map drawn by the Republican legislature that was seen as more politically neutral.
Republican lawmakers then asked DeSantis to provide a proposed new map, rather than revise their own. Democrats objected that this was an excess of power by DeSantis.
Republicans rejected those arguments but endorsed DeSantis’ plan in a reversal of previous institutional roles in the state capitol in Tallahassee.
“The governor has always played a role in the redistricting. Not just Governor DeSantis, but all governors in the state of Florida, because no redistribution plan is complete for a Congressional card until the governor signs it,” the US senator said. State Ray Rodrigues, a Republican who chaired the Senate redistribution committee.
“This map will favor Republicans in 70% of the districts,” Florida Sen. Tina Polsky, a Democrat, said.
“But Republicans make up 36% of registered voters in this state. So we’re going to have an incredible imbalance in this state, and that’s exactly what gerrymandering is, where the state doesn’t represent its constituents.
Of Florida’s 14.3 million registered voters, about 36 percent are Republicans, 35 percent are Democrats, and most of the rest are independents who have no registered party affiliation.