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DeSantis calls for 'race neutral' drawing of North Florida's congressional districts

Desantis with his hand out
Marta Lavandier
AP Photo
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly slammed the legislature's efforts to keep a minority access U.S. House district in North Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for a “race neutral” drawing of North Florida’s U.S. House districts.

Speaking in Miami on Tuesday, DeSantis again defended his decision to veto the legislature’s congressional map, which included an African American opportunity district in Duval County. Lawmakers proposed the drawing after DeSantis flatly rejected the Senate's original plan to keep African American Democratic Rep. Al Lawson's 5th Congressional District — which stretches from Gadsden County to eastern Duval County — largely intact.

“It will though have North Florida drawn in a race neutral manner," DeSantis said. "We are not going to have a two-hundred-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin. That is wrong. That is not the way we’ve governed in the state of Florida.”

The state Supreme Court approved the drawing of Lawson's district in 2015, ruling that it was necessary for the congressional map to adhere to the state constitution's Fair Districts Amendments. Those amendments prohibit the drawing of congressional or legislative districts in a way that diminishes racial and language minority voters' ability to elect a candidate of their choice.

Desantis’ campaign against minority access districts in the region began when proposed a map that eliminated Lawson's district. DeSantis proposed map leans heavily in favor of Republicans.

Florida’s legislative leaders have said lawmakers will take up whatever map the governor’s office presents when they meet April 19 - 22 for a special lawmaking session.

This week, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls sent a letter to lawmakers stating the goal of the upcoming session is to pass a map the governor will sign and that can survive legal challenges.

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.