Democrats are a minority in Florida, and their situation may worsen later this year when the GOP-controlled state legislature begins the redistricting process. According to a recent analysis from FiveThirtyEight, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis stayed firm and refused to give in to moderate Republicans who wanted to satisfy liberal Democrats. This may make it much more difficult for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to maintain her iron hold on the lower chamber, putting her speakership in peril given Republicans’ strong odds of regaining control in November’s midterm elections.
Democrats are concerned that Republicans will use the state’s massive population growth, particularly along the key I-4 corridor, which has seen the most growth over the last decade, to eliminate some of their congressional seats, similar to how Democrats plan to blot out GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s seat in blue Illinois. The Florida Legislature ultimately gave in to DeSantis’ requests on Thursday, passing one of his proposed congressional maps, the final key piece in the national redistricting jigsaw, according to the source.
It’s also a dream plan for partisan Republicans, adding four more Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives on its own, as suiting DeSantis’ national reputation (and goals). While DeSantis’ adamant intent on boosting Republican dominance may make for a good story if he runs for president, it might also be the map’s downfall in court.
The next congressional map in Florida (which will take effect after DeSantis signs it) generates 18 seats with a political lean1 of R+5 or redder, and just eight districts with a partisan lean1 of D+5 or bluer. (The remaining two slots are in the R+5 and D+5 “very competitive” groups.) This design virtually ensures that Democrats in Florida will lose three House seats.
“This is about as contentious a congressional map as Florida could get — and very near to the most egregiously partisan one in the country.” The plan has an efficiency gap of R+20, meaning Republicans are predicted to win 20% more seats than they would in a hypothetical, perfectly fair map.
Because Florida has 28 congressional districts, it has a 5.7-seat Republican bias, putting it exactly behind Texas for the “honor” of having the “largest prejudice of any state,” according to the research. In a joint statement, state Senate President Wilton Simpson and state House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced, “At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not developing or creating a map for submission during the special session.”
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“We’re waiting for the Governor’s Office to send us a map that he supports.” Our goal is to give the Governor’s Office the opportunity to deliver that material to the House and Senate redistricting committees,” they said. Democratic Reps. Al Lawson, Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy, and maybe Val Demings are effectively targeted by the new map.
The map has yet to take effect, but it has been approved by both houses of the Florida Legislature and signed into law by DeSantis on Friday afternoon. Several civil rights organizations, as well as voters, joined the case, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter, Florida Rising, and Equal Ground Florida.
The case is backed by the Elias Law Group and the National Redistricting Foundation, and comes only 24 hours after the proposal passed the state House in a special session. Lawyers point to the map’s treatment of the state’s 5th Congressional District, which has a majority of black voters and accounts for over half of the population. The plan separates Jacksonville, the district’s largest city and home to the state’s largest black population, into two Republican-leaning districts. Al Lawson, a Democrat, represents the district.
The Republican-controlled legislature delivered DeSantis a redistricting map last month that mainly preserved the district’s boundaries, but the governor rejected it. He said they left a racially gerrymandered district intact, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection requirement.
“Both Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature were fully aware that destroying CD-5 would reduce the voting power of Black citizens in the district and would violate the Florida Constitution’s unambiguous directive. Governor DeSantis made it clear from the start that he would not support any congressional proposal that included a CD-5 configuration that safeguarded Black votes from being marginalized “According to the complaint, “Governor DeSantis worked tirelessly to achieve his goals.”
The complaint cites the Fair Districts Amendment, which prohibits redistricting plans from being established “with the goal to favor or disfavor a political party” and from “denying or abridging the equal opportunity of ethnic or linguistic minorities to vote.” Both of these laws are allegedly violated by the map, according to the plaintiffs.
DeSantis’ veto looked to be driven by a want to enact an even more GOP-friendly map that the legislature had provided him, according to many outside observers. Finally, the legislature gave in and stated that it would seek a map that he would endorse, with the hope that it would pass legal muster. For months, DeSantis and the legislature had disagreed on how active they should be with redistricting.
The map is likely to increase the GOP’s 16-11 House majority to 20–8. During the recent census, the state gained a seat. In other words, following the midterm elections, Republicans will likely control 71 percent of congressional seats in a state that former President Donald Trump won by approximately 51 percent.
Democrats held a protest over the map at a special session in the state House on Thursday, but Republicans managed to get the law passed despite their singing and shouting. Aside from the modifications to the 5th Congressional District, the map also hurts Democrats in the 10th Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. Val Demings and has a substantial black population of around 28%, albeit not a majority. Demings is running against Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida.