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Democrats blast Gov. DeSantis' congressional map, praise GOP legislature's redistricting efforts

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (D-District 5) calls for the preservation of his district at a voting rights rally in front of the Florida State Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2022.
Valerie Crowder
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (D-District 5) calls for the preservation of his district at a voting rights rally in front of the Florida State Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2022.

Democratic state lawmakers continue to blast Gov. Ron DeSantis' proposed congressional map, while crediting Republicans in the legislature for their openness to passing a fair U.S. House map.

DeSantis’ plan would cut the number of districts where African American voters can elect a candidate of their choice in half.

One of the most controversial aspects of his map is that it would carve up African American Congressman Al Lawson’s north Florida district.

"I appreciate wholeheartedly that district being protected and being seen in maps," said Rep. Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville) during a House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee meeting on Friday.

On Thursday, Davis decried DeSantis' proposal to eliminate Congressional District 5, where African American voters make up 44% of the constituency, giving them enough voting power to elect a candidate of their choice.

“It is insulting. We have never had a governor take part in redistricting," Davis said at the rally.

DeSantis has the power to veto the legislature’s congressional map, but state lawmakers are tasked with drawing the lines.

Speaking at the rally, Rep. Al Lawson said that keeping his district intact isn't about him. "It's about those who come behind me and have the opportunity to represent minority interests in the state.”

Unlike DeSantis' map, both the Senate and House plans keep Lawson's district largely intact. The Senate has already passed its map, and the House plan is still under review in committee.

During the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee on Friday, the chamber's proposed map passed (14-7) with Democrats voting against it. They argue Democratic Rep. Val Demings' Orlando district — Congressional District 10 — should remain intact.

The Senate's plan keeps that district, while the House plan reconfigures the district's lines. The two chambers must negotiate a final plan before they send it to DeSantis for approval.

Rep. Kelly Skidmore, the House Redistricting Committee's ranking Democratic member, was among those voting against the plan. "I do also love and respect and admire the legislative process that allows us to start at a point where we might be in disagreement and at a point where we are all on the same page," Skidmore said. "I'm looking forward to that process."

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.