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DeSantis submits congressional map ahead of special session

colorful map of the northern Florida area
Executive Office of the Governor
Gov. Ron DeSantis' latest congressional map would eliminate an African American opportunity district in North Florida. DeSantis' office submitted the plan on April 13, 2022.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has submitted a U.S. House district map that eliminates African American Democratic Rep. Al Lawson's congressional district.

The map was submitted by J. Alex Kelly, the governor's chief of staff, on Wednesday. Lawmakers are expected to take up the map when they meet in a special legislative session on April 19 - 22.

"This proposal comes following meaningful discussions with our Senate legal counsel," Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Ray Rodrigues wrote in a letter to the chamber. Rodrigues explained that he plans to introduce the map as a bill for lawmakers to consider next week. He writes the map "reflects standards the Senate can support."

But the drawing differs from the map the legislature sent to the governor last month, especially in North Florida. It deviates even more from the plan the Senate first passed in January. That map kept Lawson's district largely intact. And the map that passed the full legislature last month included a district that would've given African American voters in Duval County an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.

Lawmakers passed a map that included a minority access district in North Florida in an effort to adhere to the Florida Supreme Court's interpretation of the state constitution's Fair Districts Amendments, which prohibit the drawing of districts that diminish minority voters' ability to elect a candidate of their choice.

Last month, DeSantis vetoed their plan. And he's remained adamant that he won't approve a map that includes a minority access district in North Florida.

On Tuesday, DeSantis said that the districts in North Florida will be "drawn in a race neutral manner."

Florida League of Women Voters President Cecile Scoon told WFSU News earlier this month that part of the purpose of the state's Fair Districts Amendments is "to fix racial discrimination from hundreds of years."

In a memo accompanying the governor's veto, the office's legal counsel outlined the governor's reasoning for not supporting minority access districts in the region. DeSantis has described them as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

"They’re literally saying the fact that you used race, that’s unequal," Scoon said. "Unequal — that’s being turned up on its head.”

Matthew Isbell is a redistricting expert and data consultant for the Democratic Party. He describes the governor's map as "an extreme gerrymander" and a "very aggressive plan."

The map would give Republicans a 20-8 seat advantage over Democrats based on the 2020 elections, Isbell said. That would bring the number of GOP favorable congressional seats up by four.

Isbell says the map does this "by destroying Black representation in North Florida." It would also break up Black communities in Orlando and Tampa Bay, he said.

Executive Office of the Governor
Gov. Ron DeSantis submitted a congressional map on Tuesday, April 13. Lawmakers are expected to take up the governor's map during the special lawmaking session on April 19 - 22.

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.