Attorney General Ashley Moody has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to accept legislative maps for state House and Senate districts. But the process of approving a new map for Florida’s now-28 congressional seats continues to be stalled.
A brief from the Republican Attorney General largely fulfills a constitutional obligation. The Florida Legislature on Thursday approved redistricted lines for the state’s 40 Senate districts and 120 House districts. Moody had 15 days to forward the maps to the high court. She called for a declaratory judgment.
The Florida Supreme Court has 30 days to complete a high-level review of the districts and either approve them or demand changes before they go into effect for the 2022 election cycle. That means a decision should be returned before the end of the Legislative Session on March 11.
The Florida Senate approved a map (S 8058) of its districts in January, with just three Democrats voting no. The House broke more along party lines on its map (H 8013), with 39 Democrats casting votes against the plan last week. Democrats there argued the maps should be found unconstitutional based on a process that didn’t create any additional minority access seats in either chamber.
The Senate has also approved a congressional map, but the House on Wednesday canceled an upcoming Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee set for Friday. The lower chamber awaits an advisory opinion, sought by Gov. Ron DeSantis, on whether a map must include a version of Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
The jurisdiction spans from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and has been viewed by House and Senate cartographers as a protected Black access seat, with a similar district appearing in every draft map produced within the Legislature during the once-a-decade redistricting process. But DeSantis’ office, in an unprecedented move, submitted its own proposal (P 0079) that leaves the district out.
DeSantis has veto power over the congressional map but no say on state legislative maps.
Democrats say submitting a map was inappropriate, and asking for a Supreme Court opinion effectively jumped a step in the process.
“It is unfortunate that the Florida Republicans who railed against judicial activism can’t even wait for a bill to become a law before running to their preferred judges,” said Rep. Kelly Skidmore, ranking Democrat on the Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee. “It is the responsibility of the Legislature, not the Governor, to draw these maps and we should get to work. Instead, we are sitting on our hands, waiting to see if the court will entertain Gov. DeSantis’ scheme to ignore the constitution and disenfranchise Black voters in Florida.”
But Republicans leaders have said it’s within DeSantis’ rights to seek the court opinion. Senate President Wilton Simpson and Speaker Chris Sprowls issued a joint statement on Monday about that request.
“The Florida Legislature stands with Gov. Ron DeSantis in asking the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in on a narrow, critical question related to congressional redistricting,” the statement read. “We appreciate the Governor utilizing his constitutional authority to seek an advisory opinion, and we hope the court will act expeditiously upon his request.”