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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is outwardly attempting to stifle Black political power in his state as he redraws its congressional districts to significantly benefit Republicans.
According to The Guardian, the Florida legislature is meeting this week to consider a proposal from DeSantis that would give Florida Republicans a 20-8 advantage over Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation.
If approved, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan would result in a four-seat increase from the 16-11 advantage Republicans hold now (Florida gained an additional seat in Congress because of population growth).
The Florida Senate approved the plan on a party-line vote on Wednesday. It’s still being debated in the Florida House of Representatives.
Redistricting is not new, but it is usually racist.
Ron DeSantis’s plan severely undercuts the voting power of Black Floridians, where there are currently only four districts in the state where Black voters can elect their preferred candidates. His plan would leave only two, according to The Guardian.
The governor has openly talked about his desire to eliminate the fifth congressional district, which stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee in northern Florida. Forty-six percent of the voting-age population there is Black.
Ron DeSantis argues the district is unconstitutional because its unusual sprawling shape was drawn primarily with race in mind. “We are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin. That is wrong.”
‘Divide and Conquer’ seems to be DeSantis’ strategy
His proposed map would chop up the fifth district into four new districts, all with lower shares of Black voters. Republicans would be favored in all four new districts as well.
“Sometimes you have to apply Occam’s razor and the simplest explanation is the right one … This is a deeply racist move that targets Black political power,” said Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice. “What he’s doing in the Florida fifth just seems gratuitous. It seems mean-spirited and really designed to really put an oomph on things.”
Ron DeSantis’ redistricting plan to be challenged.
“Getting rid of the fifth congressional district will have severe consequences for Black voters in the northern part of the state,” said Jasmine Burney-Clark, the founder of Equal Ground, a civic engagement group that plans to lobby lawmakers to reject the governor’s proposal.
“They’re going to be losing access to resources and access to someone who could speak to them within that particular fifth district,” she said. “Not having someone who represents those swaths of individuals from Jacksonville from Tallahassee means that we are diluting their voting power, means that the governor is diluting their voting power. And the governor is taking their ability to be heard through the electoral process.”
Ron DeSantis is out-Trumping Trump on purpose.
In June, the board similarly banned the teaching of critical race theory, or CRT, from public schools, notwithstanding the absence of any evidence proving that it was being taught in Florida’s K-12 schools.
Voter suppression is one of the oldest, most bigoted tricks of GOP survival. Ron DeSantis isn’t afraid to drastically redraw lines today in the same way previous leaders demanded a Black voter to count a mason jar full of jelly beans once upon a time.
What happens next to the plan?
It’s not clear whether Republicans in the legislature will approve DeSantis’s plan.
According to The Guardian, DeSantis’s map is setting up two hugely consequential legal battles over redistricting. The governor is seemingly pushing to overturn amendments overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2010 that seek to limit partisan gerrymandering and make it illegal to reduce the ability of minority voters to elect the candidate of their choosing.
Ron DeSantis is also pushing for a fight on the federal level. The U.S. Supreme Court has signaled recently that it is increasingly skeptical of considering race in drawing district lines, and the Florida map could offer another chance for them to make it harder to justify its use.
If the courts were to approve DeSantis’s map, it would make it easier for lawmakers to draw discriminatory district lines in the future. Just what we need – more jelly beans.