Gov. DeSantis vetoes new congressional maps, calls for a special session

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday followed through with his promise to veto congressional maps that were approved by the Florida Legislature earlier this month.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday followed through with his promise to veto congressional maps that were approved by the Florida Legislature earlier this month.

After he announced he vetoed the congressional redistricting plan, Gov. DeSantis issued a proclamation for a special legislative session for lawmakers to look at the map again starting on April 19.

“It is absolutely I think the responsibility of the legislature to produce a map that can actually be signed in the law,” DeSantis said.

Gov. DeSantis said the district as it is drawn violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment which says state laws must treat people the same as others in similar conditions or circumstances. It doesn’t give states the ability to discriminate and protects civil rights.

“In their, I guess understandable zeal to try to comply with what they believe the Florida constitution was required, they forgot to make sure what they were doing complied with the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution,” DeSantis said of Florida lawmakers.

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One of the sticking points is the 5th district which is currently represented by U.S. Congressman Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) and stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, connecting predominantly Black communities.

MORE: Rep. Lawson criticizes ‘unconstitutional’ congressional redistricting map from Gov. DeSantis

The state legislature passed a bill that included two different maps one that drew a new 5th district entirely within Duval County and a “backup” map that was similar to the current districts.

But Gov. DeSantis rejected both proposed maps. He wants the maps significantly redrawn and previously put out his own congressional map in an unusual move that had a clear goal in mind, according to UNF political science professor Dr. Michael Binder.

“It appears from the maps that DeSantis had put forth earlier in the process that he desperately wants to Republican gerrymander with heavily Republican seats, maximizing the amount of Republicans that can get elected, it appears the legislature opted for a different track, a little more conservative, as far as safety and seats, a lot more safer seats, more democratic seats, but also more compact districts,” Binder said.

Rep. Lawson issued a statement following the veto saying it was no surprise.

RELATED: Florida Supreme Court approves new legislative maps for Florida House, Senate

“The fact that DeSantis justifies his goal to create racial disparities in congressional representation by citing the constitutional amendment created following the Civil War for the very purpose of remedying those same disparities is absurd and will be soundly rejected by any credible judge,” Lawson’s statement read in part.

Now, the legislature will get a second crack at approving a new congressional map.

“The question is, can the legislature and DeSantis come to an agreement on what a map will look like? And I don’t know if there’s agreement to be had there. There’s a lot of competing interests at play,” Binder said.

Binder also pointed out the clock is ticking.

“Qualifying is in June, mid June. So we’re really around the corner, we have to get these maps squared away. And the one thing a legislature is really concerned about is the courts taking this throwing it out and redrawing and making their own maps. I think DeSantis might be less concerned about that. And I think that’s where a lot of this tension is coming from,” he added.

DeSantis said he doesn’t want to see the courts be in charge of redrawing the maps following the 10-year Census, but the new districts are needed for the upcoming congressional election with primaries in August.

The Duval County Democratic Party also released a statement that reads: “Today’s veto of the legislature’s proposed congressional maps makes clear Governor DeSantis’s desires to eliminate two of Florida’s minority access districts. DeSantis’s attempts to eliminate the voting power of Black voters in Congressional District 5 is an attack on the African American community and a subversion of the rule of law.

“Congressional District 5′s thirty-year existence has been sustained in decades-old state and federal court cases and is protected from diminishment in the voter-passed Fair Districting amendment. As a party, we stand firmly against any attempts to silence Black voters’ voices and call on the legislature not to fold to Governor DeSantis’s unconstitutional demands in the upcoming special session.”

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.