Florida legislature approves new congressional map giving GOP significant edge

Florida legislature approves new congressional map giving GOP significant edge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida House passed a congressional redistricting plan authored by Gov. Ron DeSantis that strengthens the GOP’s advantage in the state and dampens Democratic redistricting victories elsewhere in the nation ahead of the 2022 midterm election.

The Republican-led House approved the map by a vote of 68-38 over loud protests from Democrats, who said the new lines violate the Voting Rights Act by effectively eliminating two black districts. 

Democrats created a chaotic scene in the chamber, yelling objections to the bill to drown out the GOP majority and forcing the House to recess ahead of the vote. 

Democrats continued to disrupt the proceedings when business resumed, hollering in opposition during the vote to pass the measure. 

Republicans, drowned out by the shouts, quickly called up two remaining legislative items and passed them without any debate, including a bill to strip Disney of its special taxing authority, before gavelling the session closed for the day.

The measure passed the GOP-led Senate on Wednesday. It now heads to Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, for his signature. 

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The new map will almost certainly face legal challenges but could end up standing for the November election if the court cases drag on.

Overall, the new map provides Republicans with a 20-8 advantage in Sunshine State Congressional districts, adding Republican seats that mostly wipe out Democratic advantages won in other state redistricting efforts this year.

“That’s a real game-changer as far as these maps go,” Republican strategist Ryan Girdusky told The Washington Times. 

The new district lines create four additional GOP seats, make a Republican seat in South Florida safer for the party, and shift a Miami district controlled by Democrats into more competitive territory. 

The Republican-led legislature took up the new map in a special session this week after Mr. DeSantis vetoed a redistricting proposal passed in March by the Florida House and Senate. 

That map provided the GOP with an additional two seats but met with opposition from Mr. DeSantis, who said the legislature’s proposal ran afoul of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The DeSantis map now poised to become law would provide a four-seat advantage for Republicans in part by dismantling two districts with large populations of Black voters in the Orlando and Jacksonville area.

“Today, we pass maps that are constitutional, and they will be litigated, and we will learn whether the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution reigns supreme over the Florida State Constitution,” Rep Fine said. “That is the discussion at hand.”

Democrats argued that the changes proposed by Mr. DeSantis diminish Florida’s minority representation in Congress and decried the lack of input from the legislature. 

“This map clearly constitutes diminishment when you are taking the number of Black congressional representatives and the ability to have representation of black communities, from four to two,” Rep. Fentrice Driskell, who represents part of Hillsborough County, said. 

Ms. Driskell defended the move by Democrats to shut down the chamber with their vocal protest, noting that the GOP scheduled only 75 minutes for Democrats to debate their side of the issue. 

“It was a farce and a fallacy and we called it out for what it is,” Ms. Driskell said outside the chamber after the vote.