The decision by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office to submit a redistricting proposal for Florida’s congressional map may be unprecedented. But what will lawmakers do with the proposal?
“We have legal concerns with the congressional redistricting maps under consideration in the Legislature,” Newman said in a statement to Florida Politics.
“We have submitted an alternative proposal, which we can support, that adheres to federal and state requirements and addresses our legal concerns, while working to increase district compactness, minimize county splits where feasible, and protect minority voting populations. Because the Governor must approve any congressional map passed by the Legislature, we wanted to provide our proposal as soon as possible and in a transparent manner.”
But the map came out just three days before the Florida Senate was set to consider its own congressional map. The Senate Reapportionment Committee last week advanced a map (S 8058) that had been in the works for months.
That said, Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the Estero Republican chairing that committee, said all submissions were welcome.
“At our very first meeting way back in September, when we announced a joint website with the House, we encouraged any Floridian interested in participating to go on the redistricting website to submit a map. That appears to be what the executive office has done.”
Rep. Tom Leek, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, could not be reached for comment.
Of note, maps originating from the House or Senate receive special designations among publicly viewable submissions. The Governor’s Office proposal simply falls under public submissions, with the office listed as an affiliated organization, the same as would occur with a submission from any outside interest group.
But obviously, this isn’t just any outside party. While legislative maps generated by the Legislature this year will go into effect without the Governor’s involvement, the congressional map will land on the Governor’s desk for his signature.
“I can’t say what deference the map will be given in this process in either chamber,” Rodrigues said. “Clearly, we recognize he holds the veto pen.”
That makes the Newman statement about “legal concerns” particularly ominous.
Meanwhile, some conservatives have complained the maps out of the Senate don’t seek to gain U.S. House seats for Republicans. The Senate draft map up for floor discussion and possible vote Wednesday has 16 districts that went for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. That’s the same number of U.S. House seats Republicans already control in Florida.
But the Fair Districts amendment to the Florida Constitution forbids maps favoring or disfavoring a political party. Also, the map out of the Governor’s Office was immediately met with skepticism because the draft eliminates some minority access districts, prompting possible legal challenges under the Voting Rights Act. Latino Justice already has said it will challenge the Senate map because it does not seek to increase majority Hispanic or effectively Hispanic districts.
Democratic attorney Marc Elias, who has tried election-related cases around the country, suggested on Twitter the DeSantis office map begged for litigation.
“I look forward to my team deposing him and his staff to fully understand the illegal partisan motivations of this map,” he posted.
Rodrigues said more than anything, the submission serves as a reminder that the Legislature still has much to complete in the once-a-decade reapportionment process. For the congressional map, both the Senate and House must approve maps and then come together on a final bill. That can be rejected by DeSantis. But even if the Governor signs it into law, the map will still be subject to judicial review before it goes into effect for the 2022 election cycle.
“There seems to be a viewpoint that because a chamber has a map, which we do, that we are at a point in the process where we are wrapping it up and we are done or close to done,” Rodrigues said. “I need to point out we are at the very beginning of the process, even though staff has done a great deal of work.”