Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office has submitted the map he wants lawmakers to pass in the upcoming Special Session.
Sen. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican and Chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, said he was briefed on the submission (P 0109). He said it’s one the Florida Senate can pass.
“After thoroughly reviewing the Governor’s submission and a discussion with our legal counsel, I have determined that the Governor’s map reflects standards the Senate can support,” Rodrigues said. “As such, I intend to introduce the map as a bill for consideration during the Special Session. I have asked Senate Counsel Dan Nordby to prepare a legal memorandum outlining his analysis of the Governor’s submission, which we will provide for your review.
“I would like to thank Gov. DeSantis and his staff who have worked very hard to produce a congressional map that incorporates many of the features of the map that previously passed the Senate with bipartisan support. As we have stated from the beginning, the goal is to produce a congressional map for our state that gains majority votes on the House and Senate floors, is signed by the Governor and becomes law according to the consensus process outlined in our constitution.”
At the same time, moving forward with the Governor’s map means throwing out any work done by mapmakers in the Florida Senate and House. Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced this week the Legislature would produce no additional maps and will instead defer to DeSantis’ team.
But while Republicans in Florida appear to be coalescing around the map, a growing number of Democrats assert the lines won’t withstand court scrutiny.
“If this map is enacted, Florida will be sued,” tweeted Marc Elias, a Democratic attorney involved in redistricting legislation across the nation.
DeSantis vetoed a congressional plan containing two maps approved by the Legislature during the regular Session. A Special Session begins Tuesday to consider new cartography.
Rodrigues said the Senate Reapportionment Committee will meet Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Knott building. Among other things, that means the process will bypass the Senate Congressional Reapportionment Subcommittee, which had advanced a version of the map close to one the Senate ultimately passed.
DeSantis’ Office had submitted two maps during Session, a move unprecedented in modern times. The latest map, filed by DeSantis’ Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Kelly, appears nearly identical to one submitted by Ryan Newman, General Counsel to the Governor, in February. That’s a plan MCI Maps founder Matt Isbell called a “walking lawsuit.”
This map has 20 seats where Republican Donald Trump won the 2020 Presidential Election, and just eight seats won by Democrat Joe Biden. Trump won Florida by three percentage points.
By comparison, the map approved by the Legislature (H 8019), and a backup map in case courts threw that out (H 8015), had 18 Trump jurisdictions and 10 Biden seats. One approved by the Senate (S 8060), which could be submitted as an alternative if federal courts toss a map signed by DeSantis, had 16 Trump seats and 12 Biden districts.
Still, the Governor’s Office is defending the constitutionality of his map.
“In preparing this proposal, the Governor’s Office has adhered to geographical and political boundaries whenever possible, and indeed did so at a greater rate than the Legislature’s primary map,” wrote Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ Deputy Press Secretary, in an email to Florida Politics.
DeSantis has stressed his opposition to the configuration of Florida’s 5th Congressional District, represented now by Democrat Al Lawson. The Governor believes it was illegally drawn with race as a factor, violating the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The seat spans from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.
But the Legislature initially tried to preserve the seat because of the Fair Districts amendment in Florida’s Constitution, which prohibits diminishing the ability of minority communities to elect a candidate of their choice. While the House drafted a compromise map with a more compact seat that in-house analysts believed would still be a Black-performing seat, DeSantis rejected that.
His map instead divides the Jacksonville area in two and produces two Republican seats in northeast Florida, and no Democratic-leaning seats north of Orlando.
Lawson has maintained DeSantis’ approach violates the law.
“The Florida Legislature is caving to the intimidation of DeSantis and his desire to create additional Republican seats in Congress by eliminating minority-access districts,” he said in a prior statement. “Previously, the Florida Supreme Court scolded the Florida Legislature for injecting partisan politics into the reapportionment process. Florida voters were hopeful that legislators would have learned their lesson. They did not.”
The Florida Supreme Court threw out maps approved by the Legislature in 2012 and implemented the map with the current CD 5 configuration.
But notably, while DeSantis’ comments have only ever addressed CD 5, his map is different from the Legislature in radical ways.
The map combines parts of Florida’s existing 7th and 10th Congressional Districts — represented now by Democratic U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings, respectively — into a geographically small district that runs from Ocoee to Bithlo. That likely would reduce three Democrat-held seats in the Orlando area to two.
The Senate has argued CD 10 was also a protected district. While the House disagreed, Senate analysts said the analogous district on the Legislature’s map still would perform for Black voters in the Orlando area.
But DeSantis’ map also remakes Tampa Bay’s congressional lines dramatically, despite that area having no minority seats. The map combines parts of Democratic Reps. Charlie Crist’s and Kathy Castor’s districts to have a seat that crosses Tampa Bay. That’s similar to the configuration in the 2012 map, one rejected by the courts and replaced with seats contained respectively to Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. This change may also result in reducing the number of Democratic seats by one.
The changes within Central sparked particular criticism. Isbell, who has heavily criticized the apparent targeting of minority seats, said it seemed especially striking the Governor’s map ensured the Demings seat was not a Black access seat, even as it was left as a Democratic one.
“Ron DeSantis’ latest map is drawn to make (CD 10) a Democratic vote-sink, but it doesn’t even consolidate Orange County’s black population, and as a result the primary is plurality white,” he said. “More disrespect to the Black community of Florida.”
But there are also big impacts in areas of the state where Republicans already dominate.
For example, a district represented by Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, gets cleaved in two, with the Manatee County area central to his district landing in a new district oriented toward Tampa Bay. The Sarasota County portion, meanwhile, joins a seat that significantly overlaps with a district now represented by Republican Rep. Greg Steube. It’s unclear where Buchanan would run in such a scenario.