Gov. Ron DeSantis signaled Friday he won’t sign any congressional redistricting proposals produced to date by the Florida Legislature
“We will not be signing any congressional map that has an unconstitutional gerrymander in it, and that is going to be the position that we stick to,” DeSantis said. “Just take that to the bank.”
The statement comes a day after the Florida Supreme Court declined to advise DeSantis on whether a map of Florida’s now-28 congressional seats must include a jurisdiction similar to Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
The Governor acknowledged that decision, but since the court offered no opinion on the Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville spanning district, he’s left with his own judgment.
“We asked the Florida Supreme Court for some guidance on how to interpret a provision of our state constitution related to congressional redistricting. The court declined to take that up but acknowledged that these are really live issues and are unsettled,” he said.
DeSantis’ office in January took the unprecedented step of submitting its own redistricting proposal (P 0079) for review. The cartography conspicuously included no district analogous to CD 5, which is now represented by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat.
Spokespeople for his office then characterized the district as an “unconstitutional gerrymander that unnaturally connects communities in Jacksonville with communities hours away in Tallahassee and Gadsden counties.” The district was implemented by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 when it tossed out a map approved by the Florida Legislature.
That seems to be the position DeSantis’ office still holds.
“Just to let people know, that is not changing my position at all,” he said.
One missing word from the Governor’s remarks? Veto. Florida does allow legislation to become law without the Governor’s signature if he chooses not to sign or veto it.
The comments drew applause from supporters at a public event in Marianna. But importantly, many watchdog groups have deemed DeSantis’ map a GOP-friendly gerrymander.
Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, who has sued several Republican-run states over redistricting, posted on Twitter: “I look forward to my team deposing him and his staff to fully understand the illegal partisan motivations of this map.”
Lawson has also lashed out at the Governor’s proposals and his request of the Supreme Court. Many Democrats categorized that request as an attempt to pre-clear his map before the Legislature could produce a final product. Lawson celebrated the Florida Supreme Court’s decision not to issue any advisory.
“Ron DeSantis wanted the Supreme Court to violate the separation of powers and engage the judicial branch in partisan politics,” Lawson said in a statement Thursday. “They wisely and correctly rejected his request. Yes, Ron DeSantis lost today, but more importantly, democracy and the Constitution won.”
Democrats dislike the Governor’s map that apparently makes every district north of Orlando a likely Republican seat. But perhaps more significantly, the Legislature hasn’t warmed to the Governor’s map either.
While Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls both filed briefs supporting the Governor’s right to ask for a court opinion, a version of CD 5 appears on every draft map drawn by the Legislature to date. That includes three drafts from the House Redistricting Committee staff and 14 maps produced by the Senate Reapportionment Committee staff or sitting Senators.
Both chambers of the Florida Legislature have presumed CD 5 to be a Black-performing district in staff analyses and have preserved it in some form. That’s because the Fair Districts amendment to Florida’s constitution requires the protection of minority communities’ abilities to elect candidates of their choice and protects against diminishment of that ability.
The Senate already approved a map (S 8060) after the Governor’s Office submitted its proposal, ignoring the submission entirely.
Meanwhile, after the Florida Supreme Court rejection of DeSantis’ request, Sprowls made clear his chamber would not pursue the same course as the Governor’s Office.
“The Governor’s question about the North Florida district and its contiguous nature raised a novel legal argument,” Sprowls told press. “We are probably not in a position to be able to address novel legal arguments in our process, which is why, had we gotten guidance from the Supreme Court, that may have enlightened that. But in the absence of that guidance and the absence of legal precedent, we are going to operate and we are going to follow the law. We are going to come out with a map that complies. I think that you can probably anticipate that North Florida district … in the previous House map will be similar or the same.”