Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed a congressional map for consideration in the redistricting process and it’s sparking controversy.
DeSantis’ map would cut the number of majority-Black districts from four to two.
It also gets rid of a congressional seat held by Black representative Al Lawson in Tallahassee.
Lee County NAACP President James Muwakkil has kept a close eye on Southwest Florida’s local redistricting process.
Now, he is also focused on DeSantis’ congressional map.
“This map is being drawn in a way to where it will dilute Black and brown voters,” Muwakkil said. “It is discriminatory in nature and I think that’s the purpose.”
State Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said he would encourage people not to jump to conclusions or read too much into the maps that the legislature has right now.
Florida Democrats are not taking that advice.
They called a news conference to blast DeSantis’ redistricting proposal and that if adopted, it would eliminate two African-American districts.
“It gives me concerns that it violates the fair districts amendments and violates constitutional requirements,” said State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa.
State Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said this is a map that should never be considered under any circumstances.
Muwakkil said he is particularly irked that the Governor’s office submitted the map the day before Martin Luther King Day.
“That is an insult to what Dr. King stood for, what he died for,” Muwakkil said.
But Roach said the governor has the right to ask the state legislature to consider his plan especially since he will be the one who eventually signs the final redistricting map into law.
When that happens, the lawsuits will follow, Roach said.
“There will be litigation, no matter which maps are passed and approved,” he added.
While it’s rare for any governor to submit his own map to state lawmakers, it’s not out of bounds although DeSantis is the first in recent history to do so.
“He’s really amassed a significant amount of political power. He’s looking forward to his reelection and potentially running for the presidency. So is he overstepping his play? No, I don’t think so,” said Peter Bergerson, a political expert with Florida Gulf Coast University.
Regardless of what happens, Southwest Florida will see some changes to its map.
“I mean, we’d love to see Lee and Collier County together, or at least Lee and then Collier County have the same representative, but you know, that may or may not happen,” Roach said.
It wouldn’t happen with the proposed map by DeSantis.
Because of population growth, Florida will have a new district.
DeSantis drew that district in Southwest Florida.
Bergerson said that would have major implications for Southwest Florida.
“Southwest Florida could lose the homogeneity that they presently have in the congressional district here,” Bergerson said.
DeSantis’ map redraws Byron Donald’s 19th congressional district, which currently spans Lee and Collier counties.
The map puts Lee County into its own district and then redraws Naples and Marco Island into a separate district.
“That would put two Republicans in the same district and something would have to go,” Bergerson said. “The congressional district boundary lines becomes very important for intra party competition.”
In a statement to WINK News, General Counsel for the Executive Office of the Governor, Ryan Newman said:
“We have legal concerns with the congressional redistricting maps under consideration in the Legislature. We have submitted an alternative proposal, which we can support, that adheres to federal and state requirements and addresses our legal concerns, while working to increase district compactness, minimize county splits where feasible, and protect minority voting populations. Because the Governor must approve any congressional map passed by the Legislature, we wanted to provide our proposal as soon as possible and in a transparent manner.”