A Florida House committee proposed a new congressional map on Friday in hopes of allaying Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ concerns about the constitutionality of a black congressman district while trying to maintain a black plurality district. .
The map approved by the House Congressional Redistricting Committee would still create difficulties for U.S. Representative Al Lawson’s re-election hopes, but would create a majority black district in Jacksonville.
Lawson, who lives in Tallahassee, has a district that stretches from Jacksonville to Gadsden County west of Florida’s capital. DeSantis came up with a map that dismantled Lawson’s district, arguing that he is unconstitutionally gerrymander. The governor’s map does not contain a black plurality district in North Florida.
DeSantis has threatened to veto any card he deems unconstitutional.
In an unusual move, the committee’s bill also contained a backup map that leaves the Lawson District essentially untouched in the event the main map is found to be unconstitutional.
“The main map was presented as a way to address the new legal theory raised by the governor, while protecting a black minority seat in North Florida,” Republican committee chairman Tom Leek said. “Having two maps is a unique setup, but we’re facing a unique situation.”
Lawson released a statement criticizing the committee.
“Never in the history of our state has the Florida Legislature submitted two maps for consideration – one that is clearly unconstitutional and a second map ‘in case we get caught,'” he said.
Lawson said the new map is unconstitutional because it divides the black communities of interest in Jacksonville and Gadsden County, Florida’s only majority black county. He said that would leave “all black voters west of Jacksonville unrepresented.”
The legislature must draw new maps every 10 years after the federal census. The map also adds a new congressional district in central Florida, which is likely to favor Republicans. Florida won the seat due to its population growth of 2.7 million new residents between 2010 and 2020.
Democrats opposed the new map.
The approval of the new map comes late in the legislative process. It must be approved by March 11 if lawmakers are to finish their session on time. The full House has yet to approve the map, the Senate has already approved the map with notable differences, and the two chambers must come to an agreement.