Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday proposed an aggressively partisan redrawing of the state’s congressional boundaries that could help his party pick up four seats in the US House of Representatives this November.
If the proposed map is enacted and survives a legal challenge, the result could lead to “entirely wiping out (Democrats’) national redistricting gains so far,” Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races as a senior editor at The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, wrote on Twitter.
Like previous maps submitted by DeSantis’ office, the latest offering would likely reduce the number of districts where Black voters are a plurality and would make it difficult for Democrats to win anywhere north of Orlando or outside major cities.
The map is almost certain to get approval from the Republican-controlled legislature when state lawmakers meet next week in a special session to finalize the once-a-decade work of reapportioning the state’s congressional lines. Though the state Constitution puts lawmakers in charge of redistricting, GOP legislative leaders announced this week that they would cede those duties to DeSantis, ending a power struggle between the two branches of government that has lasted for months.
DeSantis had demanded lawmakers dismantle Florida’s 5th Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Al Lawson, which connects Black communities from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. He has contended that it was racially gerrymandered and on Tuesday he vowed to replace it with a “race neutral” district.
“I mean, we are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin,” DeSantis said. “That is wrong. That is not the way we’ve governed in the state of Florida.”
DeSantis’ new map would accomplish that by breaking up Jacksonville, the city with the largest African American population in the state, across two Republican-leaning districts. He would also shift Florida’s 10th Congressional District – an Orlando-area seat represented by Val Demings, a Black Democrat now running for US Senate – east toward Whiter communities.
Republican lawmakers in Florida had previously warned that diminishing the power of Black voters would violate the state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment known as Fair Districts, which requires lawmakers to give minority communities an opportunity to “elect representatives of their choice.”
However, DeSantis has welcomed a legal challenge, suggesting the state’s conservative Supreme Court could unravel the Fair Districts amendment. He vowed to veto any map that didn’t break apart the 5th District – and did so last month.
Republicans could have teamed up with Democratic lawmakers to override the governor’s veto. Or they could have let the courts decide. But they were unwilling to continue the standoff with their party’s most popular elected leader and ultimately caved.
The map would also push parts of St. Petersburg into a Tampa-based district, making it likely that two Democratic-held seats in Tampa Bay become one.
Matthew Isbell, a top Democratic map consultant, projected that the latest DeSantis map has 20 districts that would have voted for then-President Donald Trump in 2020 and eight that would have voted for now-President Joe Biden. If those outcomes are predictive of how voters in those districts will cast ballots this November, it would mean Republicans would gain four additional House seats and Democrats would lose three.
Republicans currently hold a 16-11 advantage in Florida’s US House delegation. The state added a 28th district following the 2020 US census.