Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a pair of congressional maps passed by fellow Republicans in the Florida state legislature on Tuesday, setting up an April special session for the body.
The legislature had passed two sets of congressional districts, one redrawing the majority black and deep blue Tallahassee-based Fifth District, currently held by Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, and one maintaining Lawson’s seat. DeSantis has argued that the Fifth District constitutes an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, and his office proposed a map that would create 18 Republican-leaning seats and ten Democratic ones. Both maps passed by the legislature would create a 16-12 split
The map combination approved by the legislature and vetoed by DeSantis was drawn as a contingency plan in case courts ruled that the Constitution requires a majority black district in the northern portion of the state.
DeSantis repeated his charge that the maps passed by the state legislature feature unconstitutional racial gerrymandering during a Tuesday press conference.
“We have a responsibility to produce maps for our citizens that do not contain unconstitutional racial gerrymanders,” DeSantis said, according to Florida Politics. “Today, I vetoed a map that violates the U.S. Constitution, but that does not absolve the Legislature from doing its job. I appreciate the Legislature’s willingness to work with me to pass a legally compliant map.”
The Supreme Court has ruled that states may be required to draw majority-minority districts to prevent the “loss of political power through vote dilution.” Other constitutional requirements for redistricting include compactness and the preservation of non-racial communities of interest. The DeSantis administration has argued that the maps passed by the legislature violate those requirements.
The governor had previously threatened to veto the maps as they were considered by the Florida state House. The maps passed 67-37 in the House, and 24-15 in the Senate.
I will veto the congressional reapportionment plan currently being debated by the House. DOA.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 4, 2022
Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowl expressed dismay at the veto in a joint statement, while announcing a special session of the legislature from April 19-22. (RELATED: Court Throws Out Maryland’s Congressional Maps Over Partisan Gerrymandering)
“Notwithstanding the delayed census, during the 2022 Regular Session, Florida’s Legislature passed new House and Senate maps 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.
Floridians voted in 2010 to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting districts from being “drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.”
Florida was one of six states to gain at least one congressional seat, following the 2020 census. With 28 seats, it has the third-largest House delegation of any state, behind California and Texas.