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May 25, 2024

DeSantis vetoes redistricting map, calls special session to create ‘lawful congressional district’

After vetoing the legislature’s bipartisan plan for congressional districts, Gov. Ron DeSantis called a special session and directed the legislature “to produce a new map that will establish lawful congressional voting districts in Florida.”

After reviewing CS/SB 102, he vetoed it, citing legal concerns.

The special session will convene at noon Tuesday, April 19, and will extend no later than 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 22, according to the proclamation he issued.

“We have a responsibility to produce maps for our citizens that do not contain unconstitutional racial gerrymanders,” DeSantis said. He vetoed the map because it “violates the U.S. Constitution, but that does not absolve the Legislature from doing its job.”

The veto was expected. Three weeks prior, DeSantis said he would veto the version the legislature was debating. On March 4, DeSantis also tweeted, “I will veto the congressional reapportionment plan currently being debated by the House. DOA.”

A memorandum written by his general counsel, Ron Newman, explains the reasoning behind his veto.

The bill submitted by the legislature contains two maps that “include a racially gerrymandered district – Congressional District 5 – that is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest.” The maps the legislature approved violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Newman said, because they assign voters primarily on the basis of race, which he argued is unconstitutional.

In the secondary map, District 5 stretches roughly 200 miles from east to west, including eight counties in order “to connect a minority population in Jacksonville with a separate and distinct minority population in Leon and Gadsden counties while excluding non-minority populations in eastern Leon County,” Newman wrote. “The district is not compact, does not conform to usual political or geographic boundaries and is bizarrely shaped to include minority populations in western Leon County and Gadsden County while excluding non-minority populations in eastern Leon County.”

The legislature, when drawing the congressional lines, “believed (albeit incorrectly) that the Florida Constitution required it to ensure ‘a black minority seat in north Florida,’” he said, citing a recording from a Feb. 25 House Redistricting Committee meeting.

Among his several arguments, Newman said, “there is no good reason to believe that District 5 needed to be drawn as a minority-performing district to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because the relevant minority group is not sufficiently large to constitute a majority in a geographically compact area.”

The House speaker and Senate president issued a joint statement saying the maps passed both the Senate and House with “strong bipartisan support.”

“For the first time in nearly a century, the Legislature’s maps were not challenged by a single party, and earlier this month were declared valid by the Florida Supreme Court,” they said.

“Unlike state legislative maps, the congressional map requires approval by the Governor,” and since the governor vetoed it, they argue “it is incumbent upon us to exhaust every effort in pursuit of a legislative solution.”

Florida now has 28 Congressional districts. It gained an additional seat this decade due to increased population after the latest Census count.

It’s unlikely that the Legislature would be able to override DeSantis’ veto. The state Senate passed the map by a vote of 24-15; the state House by a vote of 67-47. It was passed largely on party lines, short of a two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

This article was originally posted on DeSantis vetoes redistricting map, calls special session to create ‘lawful congressional district’

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