Florida lawmakers gave final approval on Thursday to new congressional boundaries for the next decade, adopting a map put forward by Gov. Ron DeSantis office that controversially eliminated two districts represented by Black Democrats while giving Republicans the advantage in as many as 20 of 28 districts.
The House voted 68-38 to send the map to DeSantis’ desk. DeSantis, whose office submitted the map and defended its merits in testimony this week, is expected to sign it. The Senate passed the map on Wednesday, also in a party-line vote.
The approved map could help Republicans pick up four seats in the US House of Representatives this November.
The map dismantles Florida’s 5th Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Al Lawson, which connects Black communities from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Instead, Jacksonville, the city with the largest African American population in the state, is divided into two Republican-leaning districts.
The final product 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.
DeSantis has contended those districts were racially gerrymandered and has suggested they are unconstitutional.
Opponents of the approved map have suggested a legal challenge is likely because it diminishes the number of seats where Black residents are a plurality from four to two. A state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010 known as Fair Districts requires lawmakers to give minority communities an opportunity to “elect representatives of their choice.”
Several Black members of the Florida House staged a protest during the debate, forcing an informal recess before Republican members then continued the process by ending debate and holding the vote during their protest.
“I am occupying the Florida House chamber floors to ensure that Black people will not be forgotten about. We are here to stay,” state Rep. Angie Nixon said from the floor during protest. “We are occupying the floor, we’re doing good trouble. Ron DeSantis is a bully, Ron DeSantis does not care about Black people.”
The Republican-controlled state House and Senate initially sought to maintain the current level of Black districts. The governor threatened to veto those proposals.
The House and Senate passed their own map in March over the governor’s objections. DeSantis vetoed it and called lawmakers back to Tallahassee for a special session to address the issue. Republican leaders in the House and Senate then made the decision earlier this month to let the governor take the lead.
DeSantis’ foray in the once-a-decade redistricting process is unusual. None of his immediate predecessors were especially involved in reapportioning state boundaries. It was a surprise to Tallahassee, including Republicans, when the governor’s office in January submitted a map for the lawmakers to consider.
Republicans currently hold a 16-11 advantage in Florida’s US House delegation. The state added a 28th district following the 2020 US census.