DeSantis Hit By Legal Move To Thwart Blatant GOP Gerrymandering

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Prominent voting rights lawyer Marc Elias has promised to sue Florida state officials over new Congressional district lines that state legislators recently approved at the urging of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. The new map has been characterized as eliminating two districts that Black Democrats — including Al Lawson and Val Demings — currently represent in Congress. And in terms of its partisan lean, the new district map is poised to deliver 20 of Florida’s U.S. House seats to Republicans and just eight to Democrats — an appalling feat of gerrymandering in a state where Trump won in 2020 with a little over 51 percent of the vote, not over 71 percent of it as would be suggested by the party breakdown of the new Congressional map. “Florida will be sued,” Elias said.

The Republican-led state legislature in Florida originally passed less galling lines, but DeSantis vetoed them — and rather than engaging with the governor on the issue, Republican state legislators subsequently opted to simply pass what DeSantis wanted. Democrats and those on the side of voting rights protested inside and outside Florida’s state Capitol around the time that legislators took up the Congressional district lines that DeSantis pushed. Republicans nevertheless still passed DeSantis’s proposals, essentially cowering before the governor, who has been touted as a potential future presidential candidate and has consistently promoted “culture war”-style grievances rather than level-headed policies that actually benefit the people of his state in substantive ways. Who is he helping by going after Disney and talking about going after Twitter because of the company board’s resistance to billionaire Elon Musk’s push to purchase it?

The new Congressional map puts territory that used to be in Lawson’s district into four separate districts, The Guardian explains, wiping Lawson’s district away. Lawson remarked as follows: “Once again, DeSantis is showing Florida voters that he is governing the state as a dictator. DeSantis bullied the Florida Legislature into approving his Republican-leaning congressional map during special session. It is alarming that state legislators cannot fulfill their constitutional duties without political meddling. Florida House Democrats demonstrated courage today by protesting the DeSantis’ drawn map on the floor. They comprehend that this map violates the Voting Rights Act along with the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. Minority voters in Florida deserve congressional representation. It is astounding that someone tasked to lead the state is playing partisan politics for his own political aspirations.”

Well, obviously Lawson’s point is clear, but DeSantis’s actions do fit right in with recent trends in the GOP. In Kansas, Republican state officials split the state’s most racially and ethnically diverse county into more than one Congressional district for the first time in decades. In Texas, Republican leaders gave two new Congressional districts to white majorities, although the population growth that gave the state those districts came mostly from non-white voters. This redistricting process is the first to unfold following the U.S. Supreme Court’s dismantling of the pre-clearance process laid out in the Voting Rights Act. That process — which required the pre-approval by federal authorities of certain changes to the conducting of elections in areas with voter suppression problems — also covered redistricting.