Looking at Florida’s new congressional map ahead of the midterm elections

TAMPA, Fla. – It took one second for the Florida Legislature to do what decades of injunctions, lawsuits and amendments have tried to stop: draw electoral maps with the intention of favoring one political party.

At the center of the dispute is District 5, which stretches from Jacksonville along the Strip. It is a space where black communities have elected black leaders to represent them. But under the new map, District 5 is now divided into four districts and drawn so that the black vote is now a clear minority.

This map was drawn by Governor DeSantis and passed by the Republican Legislature, and the implications go far beyond borders. The governor’s plan wipes out half of the state’s black congressional districts.

DeSantis defended the new boundaries, arguing that the old map unfairly guaranteed a predominantly black district.

Political scientists said the goal of redistricting is to help your party, regardless of whether you’re a red or blue state.

“Almost always these days, when you redistrict, you draw them in a way that makes your party better,” said ABC News political director Rick Klein. “In states where legislators have that power, we’ve seen them take advantage of that. The Democrats did it. The Republicans did it. It’s hard to judge who was worse, it depends on the country and year.”

But if politics is to be the art of compromise, then drawing constituencies has become a demographic science. It’s not just Florida or Republicans doing it.

“We’ve seen a very aggressive Democratic effort in New York that went so far that the court threw it out and ended up going against the Democrats,” Klein said. “We’ve seen Democrats take advantage in Illinois. We’ve seen Republicans try to take advantage in places where they control the legislature but not necessarily the governorship. They’ve seen it in North Carolina, in Tennessee.”

The practice of drawing electoral boundaries, called “gerrymandering,” is almost as old as the country itself. It was actually named after the governor of Massachusetts in 1812.

But in 2022, at a time of so much political division, Gov. DeSantis’ power play in Florida could pay off far beyond the state’s borders.

“As you know, there’s a lot of skepticism in the Legislature to go as far as DeSantis, but they’ve gotten it done, even if it ends up being repealed in a future cycle,” Klein said. “The strength of incumbency means a lot, and it may be that the gains that Democrats have made elsewhere in the country have been wiped out.”

The maps are valid for this semester, but are being challenged in court.

The Florida League of Women Voters is among the groups suing DeSantis and the state to stop the maps, saying they violate the law and are unconstitutional. The legal outcome will not be determined until long after the election is over.

“It would be an interesting theory if they tried to appeal it to the federal system and to the United States Supreme Court,” said Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “Right now, it’s well on its way to trial in the trial state, and then the appeal would go through the state court system.”

“Bottom line, elections have consequences … Republicans run the Legislature and get their maps,” said Strategic Image Management founder Anthony Pedicini.

Meanwhile, before the lawsuit moves forward, a final legal battle is underway over what evidence will be allowed and who will be allowed to testify.

The DeSantis administration is trying to block the release of the documents the plaintiffs are seeking. This could shed light on how the maps were drawn and whether they violated the law.


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