Unconstitutional legislation being passed by the state legislature is costing Florida taxpayers a pretty penny. The Orlando Sentinel reported that lawyers are being paid up to $745 an hour to defend legislation that defies our constitution and is often partially or fully struck down in court. The never-ending battle over redistricting in Florida is likely to continue wasting our tax dollars. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is plowing ahead at all costs with his extremely gerrymandered congressional map that would give Republicans an electoral advantage in picking up an additional four districts.
Florida has the embarrassing distinction of being one of just three states with more than one congressional district that hasn’t finalized its new map. With Democrats holding control of the U.S. House of Representatives by a razor-thin margin, the makeup of congressional maps in Florida could ultimately determine which party controls the chamber.
The Republican-controlled state legislature had already approved a map by 67-47 in the House and 24-15 in the Senate that while by no means perfect, was perceived as being less aggressively gerrymandered than what was originally expected. DeSantis bulldozed those efforts by vetoing those maps and demanding his own to be adopted, making himself the only governor in recent history to impose himself in such an authoritarian manner in the redistricting process.
The legislature has thrown their hands up and literally given up on the drawing of maps. Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have announced that they will cower to DeSantis and adopt whatever map is proposed by his office.
“At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not drafting or producing a map for introduction during the special session,” both of them announced in a letter. “We are awaiting a communication from the Governor’s Office with a map that he will support.”
A three-and-a-half-day special session will be held to rubber stamp Ron DeSantis’ maps by Republican lawmakers who have abdicated their responsibility to draw the new districts, drawing criticism from the ACLU of Florida who is calling DeSantis’ usurping of the process “unprecedented” and “undemocratic”.
So why is DeSantis inserting himself into the redistricting process? He wants heavily gerrymandered maps that would give Republicans an advantage in at least 18 of the 28 districts in the state, and as many as 20. It’s part of a nationwide campaign by Republican operatives to disrupt fair elections to better their chances to win a majority in the US House during the midterm elections.
To achieve this unfair and undemocratic electoral advantage for Republicans, DeSantis seeks to get rid of two of four Black-majority districts in an obvious violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Florida Fair District amendment to its constitution. Even some Republican lawmakers have argued that the state needs to comply with constitutional amendments that dictate fairness in redistricting by ensuring Black voting power cannot be reduced during map-making. Sources familiar with DeSantis’ thinking say that he wants a court fight out of this map that will target provisions in the Voting Rights Act and Florida’s constitution, which will continue to waste Florida’s taxpayer resources on idiotic partisan fights.
The gerrymandering of congressional maps sought by DeSantis’ administration is rooted in racism and Jim Crow-era tactics to disenfranchise Black populations in Florida. He is determined to disrupt our democratic process for political gain and the Republican-led legislature has all but surrendered to his undemocratic scheming. It really is shameful to see how these spineless and weak politicians allowed themselves to be bullied and pushed around by a wannabe tyrant and petty authoritarian.
The upcoming special session that will oversee the approval of this map is nothing more than a kangaroo court that will approve the maps DeSantis’ administration is proposing. It will be up to the courts to strike down this attack on our democracy.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.
is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.