Florida Legislature approves congressional redistricting plan despite Gov. DeSantis veto threat

Now, lawmakers must wait to see if he's bluffing.

The full Florida Legislature has now approved a controversial redistricting plan in the face of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ threatened veto.

Shortly after the Florida House passed two congressional maps, the Florida Senate took up the same cartography. That proposal passed in the Senate by a 24-15 vote Friday.

“This is a constitutional map. It is a good map,” said Sen. Ray Rodrigues, chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee.

That bill presented a House-drawn map (H 8019) as the Legislature’s plan for Florida’s now 28 congressional districts. The map controversially reshapes Florida’s 5th Congressional District from a Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville configuration to a Duval County-only seat. The seat is represented by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, who has said this move will break up communities of color.

“The primary map adopted today by the Florida Legislature was drawn with the clear intent to create additional seats for one political party at the expense of Black voters,” Lawson said.

“This unconstitutional map violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Districts provision of the Florida Constitution by diluting the voting power of minority communities of interest in North Florida and diminishing the ability of African American voters west of Jacksonville to elect the representative of their choice.”

But analysts from both the House and Senate believe Black voters still will control a Democratic Primary in a seat that ultimately favors Democrats. Lawmakers argue that means courts should not toss the map over concerns about diminishing racial minority voting power.

But in a seeming acknowledgement of the uncertainty there, the Legislature also approved a secondary map (H 8015). The legislation recommends that backup map be taken up if the first map is found to be unconstitutional.

Of course, that’s assuming the bill ever makes it that far. DeSantis on Friday made clear he intends to veto the map approved by the Legislature.

“After seeing me for however many years, what makes you think when I say anything that I’m not going to follow through?” he told a crowd in Jacksonville.

Democrats argue the Legislature made a mistake in entertaining the Governor’s objections at all.

“There’s a stain in this whole process. It is an ugly stain and I don’t know how we fix it,” said Sen. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat. “What I don’t want to see is this process hijacked.”

Of note, the Senate’s draft congressional map (S 8060) won approval in January on a 31-4 vote, with even most Democrats voting “yes.” That’s different than in the House, where not one Democrat voted for the House maps sent up from the lower chamber earlier in the day.

Interestingly, one of the Democratic Senators who voted against the Senate map, Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, voted in favor of the final pass produced by the House. Meanwhile, Sen. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, voted against the map.

But Sen. Lori Berman, a Delray Beach Democrat, said while she doesn’t like the final map, she dislikes the Governor’s interference more.

“I can’t support the map today,” she said. “But I am also deeply troubled by the Governor’s efforts to hijack this process. And if the Governor does insist on vetoing this map, I will certainly be with anyone voting to override that veto.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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