State Watch

Florida Legislature will let DeSantis draw US House maps

The Florida Legislature will allow Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to draw new U.S. House district maps after months of intraparty feuding over how much Republicans should push their advantage to cement power for the next decade.

In a memo to fellow lawmakers on Monday, Florida state Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) and state House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) said the legislature would not draft new maps in an upcoming legislative special session. Instead, they said, they would allow DeSantis’s office to craft a map he could support.

“Our goal during the special session is to pass a new congressional map that will both earn the Governor’s signature and withstand legal scrutiny, if challenged,” Simpson and Sprowls wrote. “At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not drafting or producing a map for introduction during the special session. We are awaiting a communication from the Governor’s Office with a map that he will support.”

The legislature approved a map earlier this year that would have kept most districts largely the way they have existed in recent elections. A new district awarded to Florida after the decennial redistricting process would have favored Republicans.

But DeSantis vetoed that map, objecting to a majority-Black district that stretches along the Florida-Georgia border from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. DeSantis said that seat, currently held by Rep. Al Lawson (D), is unconstitutional.

Ryan Newman, DeSantis’s general counsel, had offered an earlier draft of a potential map that would have eliminated Lawson’s district.

Democrats and good government groups slammed the move as an abdication of legislative authority after lawmakers had approved two separate versions of their own maps.

“This is a dangerous and unprecedented move. The Florida legislature’s decision to cede this decennial process of redrawing lines for congressional districts to Gov. DeSantis is undemocratic. People should pick their politicians, not the other way around,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida wrote on Twitter.

DeSantis has used the dispute over the Lawson district to boost his profile among activist Republicans, who saw the GOP’s control of Florida’s Legislature and governor’s mansion as an opportunity for an exercise in political power. Some Republicans hoped a partisan gerrymander in Florida could offset Democratic gerrymanders in states like Illinois, New York and Maryland.

Florida political observers believed DeSantis would have the upper hand in negotiations, able to wield his veto pen to nix pet projects in the annual budget as a cudgel against Republicans who refused to go along with his plan.

The decision to punt to the governor’s office is a win for DeSantis, who is running for reelection this year and who is rumored to be eyeing a White House bid in 2024.

Any Republican-backed plan is almost certain to be challenged before Florida’s Supreme Court, which has ruled in recent years in favor of a Fair Maps ballot measure passed last decade that limits the degree of gerrymandering that can take place in the redistricting process.

But Republicans hope for a more favorable court this year. Three of the seven justices are DeSantis appointees, and all seven justices were appointed by Republican governors.

Tags Al Lawson Florida Redistricting Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis
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