Numerous Florida Democrats and officials criticized the Florida Legislature’s process to approve the new congressional maps as the legislature reconvened Monday. Legislative leaders, last week announced they would be working on the new maps entirely proposed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ (R) office and would not be creating their own.
Critics around Florida’s political landscape are referring to DeSantis as the “Pharaoh of Florida” as his office is, for the first time in Florida history, proposing the maps the legislature will consider.
“As I stand here, I think about the progress that we’ve made,” said State Representative Dotie Joseph (D-North Miami). “Look at the elected officials you see behind us. We have made tremendous progress in this state. And we have a governor who wants to take us backwards. We’re not going back. My message to the governor is to let my people vote.”
Joseph is referencing Congressional District 5 which has been at the center of the redistricting process and controversy. DeSantis has already vetoed a proposed map from the Florida Legislature which upholds District 5’s current boundaries. District 5 is a majority-minority district rooted in keeping African Americans in one voting district.
DeSantis’ team has maintained District 5 is a “racial gerrymander” and is seeking a “race neutral” district.
“Congressional District 5 in both primary and secondary maps enacted by the Legislature violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it assigns voters primarily on the basis of race but is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest,” said Ryan Newman, general counsel for DeSantis.
Joseph continued her comments, saying the Florida Constitution requires the legislature to approve the maps; however, DeSantis does possess the constitutional power to veto map proposals.
“So, right now, as you heard before, we had two constitutional duties this past legislative session. One was to pass a balanced budget, and the other was to pass constitutionally compliant maps, which we did. The pharaoh of Florida couldn’t do anything about the maps at the state level. But he exercised this unusual veto power, which is a significant abrogation of the separation of powers. The legislature has its job, and the executive branch has its job. He needs to stay in his lane.”
State Representative Michael Grieco (D-Miami Beach) voiced his opposition to DeSantis’ efforts by calling DeSantis “a narcissistic autocrat.”
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) endorsed DeSantis’ map.
“After thoroughly reviewing the governor’s submission and a discussion with our legal counsel, I have determined that the governor’s map reflects standards the Senate can support,” Rodrigues wrote in a memo to senators.
Democrats and left-leaning groups have already indicated they will be filing a legal challenge if DeSantis’ maps are approved and signed. Redistricting challenges have typically taken years to resolve.
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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Dotie Joseph” by Dotie Joseph. Photo “Michael Grieco” by State Representative Michael Grieco. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol Building” by 1778011.