The Florida Senate on Wednesday approved a new map that would hand Republicans a significant advantage over Democrats in congressional races, with the state House expected to send the proposal on to Gov. Ron DeSantis, R, as early as Thursday.
Florida has 27 congressional districts, 16 of which are represented by Republicans and 11 by Democrats. Under the new map, which was proposed by DeSantis himself, Republicans would probably represent 20 districts while Democrats would represent eight.
The once-a-decade redistricting process will see Florida’s total number of districts rise to 28 because of the state’s gain in population. In 2020, Donald Trump won the state by just 3 percentage points.
The state Senate on Wednesday approved the DeSantis map on a party-line 24-to-15 vote. Republicans also hold a majority in the state House, which is expected to take up the measure on Thursday.
In floor remarks Wednesday morning, Democratic state Sen. Shevrin D. “Shev” Jones noted that Florida runs the risk of having only two Black members of Congress if the new map is approved and that court challenges are almost certain to follow. More than 200 Black leaders gathered in front of the state Capitol on Tuesday to speak out against the new map.
“It’s my hope that you recognize that when you begin to trample on marginalized people in the manner that you’re doing — which you know is wrong — that’s when you have to do some self-reflection on whether or not we are doing the right thing,” Jones told his Senate colleagues.
He added that Republicans in the chamber had “acquiesced” to DeSantis and allowed him to “hijack this process.”
The redistricting gambit is the latest move by DeSantis, a vocal supporter of Trump, to raise his profile among the Republican base before a potential White House bid in 2024. The governor has also launched a crusade against the Walt Disney Co. for its opposition to a Florida bill banning the teaching of gender-related issues to children and is campaigning in Nevada next week for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, who has been endorsed by Trump.
Florida’s state Senate Republicans had previously advanced a map of their own that passed with near-unanimous bipartisan support. But the map was panned by national Republicans, who said the lawmakers had given up the chance to draw more seats favoring their party.
Earlier this year, DeSantis released his own map, one that would give Republicans a few more seats at a time when just a handful will determine the House majority in Congress. His map also erased a Democratic district along the northern border from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. The district, which is represented by Rep. Al Lawson, D, had been drawn to give Black voters there a chance to elect a person of their choice.
DeSantis claimed Lawson’s district was an illegal racial gerrymander drawn to consider race above any other factors. Democrats say that getting rid of that seat would violate a law against diminishing Black voting power.
In February, the legislature passed two maps — the one the state Senate had previously advanced and another it hoped would appease the governor, shrinking Lawson’s district but not fully erasing it.
DeSantis vetoed them and instructed the legislature to return for a special session this week to try again. Before it came back, the GOP leadership announced it would not be drawing a new map and would await guidance from the governor.
DeSantis released his map last week, erasing the district held by Lawson as well as another held by a Black Democrat in central Florida and ensuring Republicans would probably have 20 of the state’s 28 seats.
Wednesday’s vote marks a significant capitulation by state Republicans to DeSantis. The victory for the governor will also gain him favor among national Republicans and Trump’s “Make America Great Again” base, which, spurred by radio host Steve Bannon, had been pushing for him to take a strong stance on redistricting. If Republicans win the House in the fall by only a few seats, DeSantis is likely to take credit.
The Washington Post’s Lori Rozsa contributed to this report.