TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers will return to the Capitol Tuesday to begin a special session to approve a new congressional map after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the previous GOP-backed boundaries that preserved minority districts.
The work should be easy, given that Republican leaders have already conceded the once-a-decade process to DeSantis.
Much to the dismay of Democrats and voting rights groups, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson told lawmakers last week that neither chamber was going to try to draw a new map, but rather vote on the heavily pro-GOP map DeSantis gave them.
“They're giving up their right to make a decision and they are relenting to a governor who is essentially a narcissistic autocrat,” said Democratic state Rep. Michael Grieco during a Monday news conference.
The map DeSantis submitted would likely create more Republican seats than the maps approved by the Legislature. It would also likely reduce Black representation in Florida's delegation from four to two.
While DeSantis, who is a potential 2024 presidential candidate, said his map is “race neutral,” Black lawmakers say it is racist.
“To Gov. DeSantis, I'm not going to call what you're doing a culture war anymore, I'm going to call it just what it is: It's a racist tactic that you're doing. And you know what you're doing,” Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones said at a news conference with other Black elected officials and community leaders.
He said it will be an incentive to get people to vote when DeSantis is up for reelection in November.
“When you come for one of us, you come for all of us, and we will not allow you to dilute our districts with representation for your own political gain. You lose,” Jones said.
The governor's communications office didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Florida is adding a 28th congressional district because of population growth over the decade. The vote this week on the DeSantis map won't be the end of the process since it will be the focus of legal challenges.
Qualifying for federal office will run from June 13-17.
It won't be the only special session held this year. DeSantis on Monday said he would sign an order this week to bring the Legislature back in May to address rising property insurance rates.
The League of Women Voters of Florida said the DeSantis map violates the state constitution, which requires contiguous districts that don't benefit or hurt a political party, incumbent or candidate. It also says districts can't be drawn to reduce minority access to elect representatives.
But DeSantis argues that since the provision was passed by voters in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled race can't be a primary factor in drawing districts.
The League of Women Voters of Florida issued a news release calling on lawmakers to find courage and do their jobs instead of conceding to DeSantis.
“The legislature’s irresponsible plan to capitulate to the aggression of the Governor nullifies the constitutionally mandated separation of the three branches of government and is moving in the direction of an autocracy,” said league President Cecile Scoon.