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Group launches ad campaign targeting DeSantis' proposed congressional maps

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Valerie Crowder
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WFSU News
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson speaks out against Gov. Ron DeSantis' attempts to eliminate his congressional district at a voting rights rally outside the Florida State Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022.

A nonpartisan group that’s working to build African American political power in Florida has launched a digital ad campaign targeting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to eliminate two of the state’s minority access congressional districts.

“The ability to have diverse voices at the table matters. Currently there are four Black members of Congress who reflect the lived experiences of Black people,” said Genesis Robinson, political director for Equal Ground Action Fund, the group that’s launched the ad campaign. “When you reduce that by fifty percent or even more, you are eliminating treasured and valuable voices at the table.”

Last week, DeSantis vetoed the legislature’s congressional map, which sought to keep an African American opportunity district in North Florida.

Both maps that the governor’s office has put forward would eliminate Congressional Districts 5 and 10 — which are represented by African American Democrats. It removes Rep. Al Lawson’s 5th Congressional District — which stretches from Gadsden County to eastern Duval County — without replacing the district with one that gives the region’s Black voters an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.

DeSantis’ proposed maps would also eliminate Rep. Val Demings’ 10th Congressional District in the Orlando area.

Due to population growth, Florida is getting an additional congressional district, bringing the total number of seats to 28.

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Equal Ground Action Fund
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Screenshot
Equal Ground Action Fund is sharing this ad on social media urging voters to ask the legislature to oppose the governor's proposed congressional maps.

“If the governor has his way of eliminating two Black access seats in the state of Florida what that could amount to is less than ten percent of the congressional seats in Florida would now be Black access seats, and when you really put that into perspective and you talk about the population of Black Floridians in the state — it’s higher than ten percent.”

Following the veto, DeSantis called lawmakers back to Tallahassee for a special lawmaking session between April 19 - 22 to pass U.S. House districts that he’ll support. “There's been a couple proposals that folks in the governor's office have done — some of the lawyers have done — those will get my signature,” DeSantis said at a recent press conference. “If they depart from that, you know, we’ll see.”

Equal Ground’s digital ad campaign links to a form email that constituents can fill out and send to every member of the legislature urging them to “not acquiesce to his demands,” Robinson said.

So far, roughly 21,000 emails have been sent, he said. That figure doesn’t reflect the number of constituents that have submitted a form because each submission generates an email for every lawmaker. “We want that number to grow exponentially.”

Robinson says the organization is planning a rally with statewide coalition partners to take place on Tuesday, April 19, the first day of the special lawmaking session. The group is also working to organize constituents who live in Congressional Districts 5 and 10 to give public testimony during the session. “We’re going to continue to keep the pressure on because it’s that important.”