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Disagreement over Florida's congressional districts could force legislature to reconvene

The Florida Channel
Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterates his promise to veto the legislature's congressional map while speaking to reporters after the regular legislative session adjourned on Monday, March 14, 2022.

Florida is one of four states that hasn’t yet approved a congressional map — all other states have drawn their new U.S. House districts well ahead of the November 2022 elections. The legislature and the governor remain at odds over keeping an African American opportunity district in North Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said repeatedly that he intends to veto the legislature’s proposed congressional map when it arrives on his desk.

DeSantis has proposed a more Republican-leaning plan that would eliminate two districts held by African American Democratic representatives. After the regular lawmaking session ended on Monday, he showed no sign that he’d changed his mind.

“I said what I said. Of course, I will do that," DeSantis said, while speaking to reporters. "They haven’t sent it to me yet. But when they do, we will go ahead and do that. And hopefully, we’re able to agree on a product.”

The legislature’s plan contains two maps. Both include a North Florida district where African American voters make up enough of the constituency to elect a candidate of their choice. DeSantis opposes the maps, describing racially-drawn districts as unconstitutional gerrymanders.

Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Ray Rodrigues expressed optimism the two sides will eventually reach an agreement, but that would require lawmakers to reconvene in a special legislative session.

“We would need to come up with a map that the House and Senate could agree upon and that the governor would sign.”

Voting rights groups are concerned the legislature and governor won’t reach an agreement before the congressional candidate filing deadline in mid-June.

Common Cause, Fair Districts Now and several voters have filed a lawsuit urging a federal court to implement a new map in time for the November elections. They're also seeking an injunction preventing the current map — which contains several over- and under-populated districts — from remaining in effect.

“It’s incumbent on the courts to step in and find a resolution for voters to be able to vote in districts that have equal population," said Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause. "That’s the basic premise of why we redraw the lines every ten years.”

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.