Florida Democrats protest Ron DeSantis congressional map that would remove two majority-Black districts

Republicans began to leave the chamber while other Democrats made their to join the protest

Johanna Chisholm,Alex Woodward
Thursday 21 April 2022 21:29
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Democrats from the Florida House of Representatives occupied the House chamber to protest a congressional redistricting plan from Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that would eliminate three congressional seats currently held by Democrats and cut Black representation in the state in half.

The Florida Phoenix reported that Republican Rep Erin Grall was presiding over the debate on Thursday when she halted the proceedings after a group of Democratic representatives donning shirts that read “Stop the Black Attack” made their way to the centre aisle of the chamber.

Republicans began to file out of the chamber, the outlet reported, while other Democrats made their way down to join the group who began holding hands in prayer and calling out the governor’s plan, which his office developed after he vetoed a map from state legislators that would have added two Republican seats and subtracted one from the Democrats.

“We have the right to choose who represents us,” said Democrat Rep Dotie Joseph of Miami-Dade County, according to the Phoenix. “We have the right to be treated equally, to be represented equally, to just be free.”

The measure was passed by a vote of 68-38. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Democratic legislators argue the new congressional map drawn up by the governordilutes Black voters’ ability to elect candidates to represent them.

The two districts now held by Black Democratic members in Congress, they argued, would now likely flip to be a GOP stronghold with the proposed maps.

“If you vote yes for this, I want to that say you’re basically sending us back 20 years,” said Florida Rep Jervonte Edmonds, who represents Palm Beach County. “If you feel comfortable voting yes, you have to understand that you probably will be in the same history as the people who created the Black codes, or the people who created Jim Crow-era laws.”

The map passed in the Florida Senate on Wednesday, with the vote falling along party lines (24-15), as Senate Democrats argued the governor’s office gerrymandered the map to benefit Republicans.

Following the vote, Democratic Senantor Shevrin Jones said the DeSantis map “trample[s] on marginalised people”.

”You have to do self-reflection on whether we are doing the right thing. We’re just not,“ he said.

There are five Black Florida House members out of the current 27, including one who is Republican from a district that is overwhelmingly white and firmly Republican.

The new proposal creates 20 seats that lean Republican with just eight that lean towards Democratic candidates, resulting in state representation in congress with GOP representatives holding 71 per cent of the seats.

The curently are 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats representing Florida in Washington DC.

The new map is likely to face legal challenges from voting rights and civil rights groups arguing that it violates the state’s Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act’s prohibition against racial gerrymandering.

Florida’s contentious redistricting process comes as state legisaltors wrestle for control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections following the once-a-decade process of redrafting the nation’s political boundaries based on US Census results.

But for the first time in decades, states are drafting their political boundaries without critical protections from the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, after the US Supreme Court invalidated a requirement that changes to voting rules from states with histories of discrimination be approved by the US Department of Justice.

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