Florida Republicans Let Ron DeSantis Have His Jim Crow Congressional Maps
Florida Republicans have officially given up trying to draw new congressional maps that are discriminatory enough for Governor Ron DeSantis. GOP legislative leaders announced Monday that they are in effect surrendering their constitutional power to the executive branch.
In a joint statement, state House Speaker Chris Sprowls and state Senate President Wilton Simpson said legislative staff will not draft a new map for lawmakers to consider when they convene in Tallahassee next week for a special session on redistricting. Instead, the legislative leaders announced they intend to let DeSantis decide how to reapportion the state's 28 congressional districts for the next decade.
"We are awaiting a communication from the governor's office with a map that he will support," they said.
Last month, DeSantis vetoed the already jacked-up new district boundaries his own party’s lawmakers drew up. He’d previously proposed a map that halved the number of majority Black districts in the congressional map the GOP-controlled state Senate considered. The Black districts would drop from four to two while increasing the number of districts Donald Trump would’ve won in 2020 from 16 to 18. DeSantis’s Jim Crow map would also eliminate Black US House Rep. Al Lawson’s Fifth Congressional District seat. Lawson’s district includes much of Jacksonville, which has a significant Black population. The area has had minority representation for more than 30 years.
This is what DeSantis fought other Republicans over. He demanded they join his Klan march and eliminate two districts where Black residents are a plurality.
It looked for a while like congressional Republicans might defy DeSantis and pass their map despite his veto threat. They insisted their maps were constitutional and that DeSantis was picking a court fight with shaky legal footing. However, their spines never actually materialized.
"Like other general bills, the governor has a role in establishing congressional districts of the state," the joint statement from Sprowls and Simpson said. "Therefore, our goal during the special session is to pass a new congressional map that will both earn the Governor's signature and withstand legal scrutiny, if challenged."
Supporters of democracy argue that DeSantis’s desired map is a clear violation of a state constitutional amendment known as "Fair Districts.” Lawmakers are required to provide minority communities an opportunity to “elect representatives of their choice.” DeSantis’s map would torch Florida’s Fifth and 10th House districts, which are represented by Black Democrats, but if you think race factors into DeSantis’s decision, you’re probably high on critical race theory.
This is the legacy of the John Roberts Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act. If you can’t directly acknowledge race when discussing congressional maps, then Republicans can claim they're making “non-racial” political choices. Of course, the GOP is currently a white nationalist authoritarian movement, so it’s in their best interest to minimize the political influence of minority communities.
A decade or so ago, a Republican governor might’ve considered it too blatantly racist to make a big show of eliminating two Black Democrats' House seats. Now, MAGA governors would sell coffee mugs and T-shirts boasting that fact. And the New York Times might helpfully publish some “both sides” drivel about how, if given the chance, Democrats wouldn’t hesitate to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert’s seats. That’s entirely the same thing!
However, DeSantis is a crafty motherfucker and reportedly wants a legal battle. Voters approved the Fair Districts amendment in a 2010 ballot referendum, but conservatives control the state Supreme Court, and the US Supreme Court is all Trumped-up. Democrats are rightly concerned that DeSantis could successfully unravel the Fair Districts amendment and further erode the Voting Rights Act.
Here’s where we once again remind you that DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum by just 32,463 votes. C’mon, Florida, don’t let this guy win again.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."