Black Florida Lawmakers Say DeSantis’s Gerrymandered Maps are “Overtly Racist”

Florida’s new legislative maps are being criticized by voting rights activists and black lawmakers. Ron DeSantis (R), calling them “overtly racist” for diluting the voices of non-white voters in the state.

DeSantis had previously vetoed maps drawn in the Republican-led legislature. complaining at the time that they weren’t made in a way that was “race-neutral.” Republican lawmakers and DeSantis then decided that the governor would redraw the maps himself, which he submitted for consideration earlier this week.

Critics claim that these maps will reduce the influence of Black voters. In the state’s Fifth Congressional District, for example, currently held by Rep. Al Lawson (D), communities with Black voters are being shifted into a different district altogether, making it more “Republican-friendly,” The Orlando Sentinel reported.

The proposed redistricting maps are part of “a continued scheme by DeSantis to erase minority access districts in Congress in order to create more seats for the Republican Party,” Lawson said.

Other districts will also be affected by these changes, including the northern regions of the state. In this region, Black voters are being transferred to other districts in order to give Republicans better advantage. For instance, the 13th Congressional District. the new maps would cut the Black voter population nearly in half.

State Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat from Orlando who is running for Congress this year, called the proposed maps an “overtly racist action” by DeSantis.

“The fact he has the gall to do something like this clearly shows what he thinks of minorities and Black voters. It’s stunning in this day and age he would try to wipe out Black representation,” Bracy added.

Terri Lipsey Scott (executive director of Woodson African American Museum of Florida) also condemned the proposed maps. “It just really saddens me that there is the constant desire to diminish and to deprive African Americans of an opportunity to have impact in the political process,” she said.

Ellen Freidin, leader Fair Districts Now, a reform group that works to redistrict, said that the maps seem to be drawn in a explicitly partisan manner. While Federal judges are not allowed to issue rulings on partisan gerrymandering. elsewhere in the country, Florida voters passed a ballot measure in 2010 making politically-motivated redistricting illegal.

“This is repression of voters in the state of Florida in 2022,” Freidin told The Tampa Bay Times.

If the maps are passed by the state legislature and signed by DeSantis later, will likely produce a 20-8 U.S. House delegation advantageWidening the gap between Republicans and Democrats: Favoring Republicans the current 16-11 advantage Republicans presently have.

The maps will almost assuredly be challenged, and there’s good reason to believe that they might be tossed by the courts should a lawsuit come about — as the Cook Political Report’s U.S. House Editor Dave Wasserman noted, they were drawn “in ways that previous courts have struck down” — but any action will have to be taken fast, as districts need to be finalized before June 17, the end of the candidate qualifying period.