Florida’s Gerrymandered Map Is Now Law — Practically Guaranteeing GOP Victories

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a gerrymandered electoral map. This gives Republicans four more seats in Congress and likely reduces the number of Black Democrats elected. Although the measure passed along party lines on Thursday, it was delayed by a sit-in protest by Black Florida lawmakers. “Republicans cannot continue to disenfranchise Black voters,” says state Senator Shevrin Jones, a Democratic member of Florida’s Legislative Black Caucus who took part in the protest and who calls the gerrymandering part of a larger suite of “racist tactics” enacted by Republicans across the country.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Ron DeSantis, a Republican governor and potential presidential contender, has signed into Florida law a gerrymandered legislative voting map. It virtually guarantees Republicans four additional seats in Congress while likely decreasing the number of Black Democrats who are elected. During a special session called for by the governor, the measure passed along party lines on Thursday. It was delayed after Black Florida lawmakers staged a spontaneous sit-in.

BLACK FLORIDA LAWMAKERS: Whose house? The people’s house! Whose house is it? The people’s house! Whose house is it? The people’s house!

Show me what democracy looks and feels like! This is how democracy looks! Show me the beauty of democracy! This is democracy!

We are the people! We are the people! The powerful, mighty people The powerful, mighty people Fighting for justice

AMY GOODMAN: This was Florida state Representative Dianne Hart, a Democrat from Tampa. She live-streamed video from the Florida House chamber’s floor as she joined the protest. She said DeSantis’s map is meant to disenfranchise Black voters.

REP. DIANNE HART: We are aware that the governor is manipulating these maps in a way that is unfair. He is taking us from four to two representatives. That’s not fair. He should have let us, the Legislature draw maps. His job is either to accept them, or to veto them. But he’s not doing that. Instead, he’s sending his own map, and he’s saying, “If you don’t vote on my map the way I want my map to be, then guess what: You won’t get a map.”

AMY GOODMAN: Friday saw the bill signed by the governor. The controversial plan was immediately subject to legal challenge.

Also last week, Governor DeSantis signed into law a measure approved by Republican state lawmakers to rescind Disney World’s self-governing status, after he and his allies blasted Disney for opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

But right now we go to Florida, where we’re joined in Miami Gardens by Democratic Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones, member of Florida’s Legislative Black Caucus. He is a Bahamian American, also Florida’s first openly gay state senator.

We are glad you are here Democracy Now!, Senator Shevrin Jones. It’s great to have you with us.

SEN. SHEVRIN JONES: Amy, we are grateful.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you start off by talking about the walkout by the Black Caucus and why you walked out?

SEN. SHEVRIN JONES: The House Democrats did exactly what was expected and necessary. We have had to deal with this constant attack on the Black community in Florida for the past four year. The House Democrats did exactly what was necessary. They shut down the House.

Now, I will say that the House Democrats and how they — and what they’ve done, they made clear that if they are going to make laws like 1960, they will protest like it’s 1960. The Republicans cannot continue to disenfranchise Black voters, disenfranchise and take our voices away from us, and expect nothing to bring attention to what’s happening in Florida. If we can’t win inside the chambers, we have to bring attention one way or another. So, House Democrats, Black Caucus members figured that this was the best method to bring attention to Florida’s activities.

AMY GOODMAN: It reminded me a lot of John Lewis, who was literally sitting on the House’s floor with other members in the national protest. This is what you did in Florida Legislature. Yet, Governor DeSantis still signed on Friday. Explain more what this means, not only for Florida, because it sure looks like, from this to “Don’t Say Gay,” we’re talking about as goes Florida, so goes, well, a number of other states in the nation.

SEN. SHEVRIN JONES: Yeah, Amy. What we’re seeing right now, we’re seeing Florida is pushing our judicial system. They want to see what they can do, as the Republicans in Florida are well aware that what they did was unconstitutional. Since Reconstruction, we’ve only had 11 Black congressional members. Now, we have only five Black congressional members. Four of these are access seats. With the new map, we now have only two Black access seats.

And what we are saying right now is that if other states are watching, that if Florida can do this, if Florida can go in this direction and they can get away with going totally against the people — which in 2010 we voted for the Fair District Act — if they can go along with this, that means other states can do the same.

And so, this is exactly what’s happening. The governor is an attorney. He surrounds himself with smart people. So they know exactly what they’re doing. This is to push the judicial systems to their limits, all the way up to the Supreme Court. I believe this is not only dangerous for our state, but also dangerous for our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: I would like to see a clip of your on the floor of state Senate. Not sitting on the floor, but when you addressed Governor last week.

SEN. SHEVRIN JONES: And so, Governor DeSantis, I’m not going to call what you’re doing a culture war anymore. I’m going to call it just what it is: It’s a racist tactic that you’re doing, and you know what you’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: It was actually at a news conference you held. How did he reply?

SEN. SHEVRIN JONES: They didn’t respond at all, actually. And I think a lot of this, what we’re seeing, Amy, is all of this is just a distraction. Whether it’s Disney, whether it’s CRT, all of these things that’s happening is a distraction. But what we can’t allow to happen, we cannot allow the Black community to continue to be run over. Yesterday we had a call that included over 300 people from the state. It was hosted by the NAACP. The Republicans have just awakened an ancient giant.

You know, we already — right now within the South Florida, particularly in Miami, Miami has become the most expensive place to live. A lot of these areas that we’re speaking about are Black communities. And so, the fact that we are going to go to Tallahassee, waste our time, waste taxpayers’ money to hold a special session to take a special district away from Disney, all because you want to punish them, while ignoring the fact that we have bigger issues that we need to deal with, this is lackluster leadership at its best.

And I’ll end with this, that as we continue to move forward, that what we’re seeing right now in Florida, it is not just a culture war. It is racist attacks that are taking place all across this country. Republicans are seeing that they are in crisis and are going to great lengths, to take power away, to pick off marginalized people. Why is this? It’s because they see their power slipping away from them. But what they’re doing is dangerous and can have long-lasting effect on the state and in this country.