After the GOP-controlled Legislature passed new congressional districts backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week, a host of groups aligned with the Democrats filed legal challenges to oppose the new maps.
Under the map favored by DeSantis, Republicans would be favored in 20 of Florida’s 28 congressional districts with Democrats favored in the remaining eight. The governor’s office insisted the new maps will offer “congressional districts of the state through adoption of the U.S. Census of 2020 for use in redistricting.”
The new maps passed on party lines votes in Tallahassee with several Democratic legislators holding sit-ins in the Florida Senate in protest, insisting the new districts hinder African-Americans.
“A group of Representatives decided to hijack the legislative process, violating House Rules and interfering with the rights of their fellow elected colleagues to debate importantlegislation before the body,” said state House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. “We saw a group of Florida House members with microphones at their desk, a statewide audience, and an opportunity to vote on behalf of their constituents, and they instead chose to pretend they had to stage a protest to be heard.
“House Democrats requested and agreed to 75 minutes of debate time on congressional maps, and they used the entire time. They did not request any additional time prior to the group’s disruption,” Sprowls added. “After offering multiple opportunities to debate the bills in an orderly way, we carried on and completed our constitutional duty to pass a congressional map. Ultimately, this group tried to drown out the voices of the other elected representatives and the 22 million Floridians they represent.”
At the end of last week, state Reps. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, and Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, held an event with local religious leaders at Jacksonville City Hall to “condemn the passing of Florida’s congressional maps,” which, they insisted, “will deny Black Floridians’ fair representation, violate the Voting Rights Act, the constitutions of the United States and Florida and violate our equal human dignity.”
“If they are willing to come after Disney, they are willing to come after you. And so we ask you to stand up with us while he (Gov. DeSantis) is slashing Black representation by half in the state of Florida. I have a problem with that. I have a problem with the fact that I’m still fighting the same fight that my grandmother and my grandfather had to fight. I have a problem with the fact that he is turning the 14th Amendment against Black people when it was designed to allow us to have the right to vote,” Nixon said.
“That map is offensive to this Jacksonville community. It’s offensive to the Orlando community. It’s offensive to the Miami community. And any of those communities in between. It is unacceptable that this map that was passed out of the House has no regard for the 14th Amendment. It has no regard for the Voting Rights Act. It has no regard for the Constitution. It has no regard for Black voters and Brown voters and all other communities in this state,” said Davis.
Also at the end of last week, the League of Women Voters of Florida (the League), Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund, Florida Rising Together and other groups filed a legal challenge to the new districts, insisting they were “not drawn in compliance with the governing laws surrounding redistricting in Florida presently.”
“The map violates a 2010 ‘Fair Districts’ amendment to the Florida Constitution. Amendment 6, which was approved by 63 percent of Florida’s voters, prohibits diluting the opportunity to elect racial and language minorities to Congress. The amendment also prohibits the diminishment of racial or language minority congressional districts regardless of the intent of the map drawers. The governor’s map violates the Fair Districts Amendment as it cuts Black districts from four to two,” the League insisted. “2010’s Amendment 6 also prohibits gerrymandering districts to favor a political party, which is exactly what this new map does by giving a particular party an advantage in 20 of the state’s 28 congressional districts.
“The current outcome of Florida’s redistricting process can be classified as a naked attempt by Gov. DeSantis to rig congressional elections in favor of his own party, which is at odds with both the spirit and the letter of Fair Districts. DeSantis’ stated goal of a ‘race-neutral’ map has the practical effect of axing at least two Black members from Florida’s congressional delegation,” the League added.
“The League and the other plaintiffs have chosen to not stand by while a rogue governor and a complicit state Legislature make a mockery of Florida’s Constitution and try to silence the votes and voices of hundreds of thousands of Black voters,” said Cecile Scoon, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “It is our belief the shameful refusal to protect the Florida Supreme Court’s previously created Black districts will directly harm Black voting power established by Florida Supreme Court and harms every citizen in the state, regardless of race. To allow the Governor to flagrantly break established law in the hopes that the court will change the law in the future destroys the rule of law. We will not be swayed by the governor’s proclamations that the present law should be changed. We are all required to follow the law as it stands.”
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