What Happened in the Florida Congressional Redistricting Special Session

After vetoing the congressional map passed by the Florida Legislature on March 29, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) called a special session beginning on April 19 to draw a new map. Ahead of the session’s start, DeSantis released his own proposed map that would reduce the political representation of Black Floridians by dismantling North Florida’s Fifth Congressional District. The Florida Legislature approved DeSantis’ plan over the objections of Democrats who argued against the map’s treatment of minority voters and even staged a sit-in to protest it. Democrats also argued the map would violate the Florida Constitution’s Fair Districts Amendment. DeSantis signed the map into law on April 22. You can find the live play-by-play below.

Live Updates

Friday, April 22, 2022

Last updated: 4:22 p.m. EST

  • DeSantis signs his congressional map into law. The map is already being challenged in court — we’ll be sure to keep you updated with any developments.
  • A lawsuit has been filed against DeSantis’ congressional map. The plaintiffs allege the map violates multiple provisions of Florida’s Fair District Amendment by diminishing the ability of Black Floridians to elect the representative of their choice and favoring Republicans. Read more about the lawsuit here.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

  • The Florida House votes to approve DeSantis’ congressional map despite Democratic protests. The final vote is along party lines with 68 in favor and 38 against. It will now go to DeSantis for his signature. You can find the approved map here.
  • The session resumes. Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) vows to continue with the vote despite continued protests.
  • Rep. Michele Rayner (D) tells reporters that Democratic leaders are trying to negotiate with Republican House lawmakers.
  • Rep. Angie Nixon (D) vows to remain on the floor until the House rejects DeSantis’ map. “We demand that the Florida Legislature does its job and draw the maps.”
  • Black members of the House are staging a sit-in on the floor and refusing to yield. The House has entered into a recess in response.
  • Rep. Yvonne Hinson (D) invokes her experience fighting for voting rights during the Civil Rights Movement. “In 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed, I was a senior in high school…I’ve been kicked…I’ve been called names you don’t put in the dictionary anymore. Voting Rights Act of ’65, I fought for that…Here we are today, 2022, rolling back the tide.”
  • Rep. Andrew Learned (D) questions DeSantis’ real motive in proposing the map. “This is a blatant partisan gerrymander…designed by the governor to support his primary challenge against Trump.”
  • Rep. Travaris McCurdy (D) speaks directly to Black Floridians. “We shouldn’t be asking for representation in 2022…I’ve had enough of being kicked about in this chamber and still be expected to smile and shake hands with the people that are trying to oppress my people.”
  • Rep. Marie Woodson (D) calls on her colleagues to respect the rule of law. “We have a duty. If we vote yes on this map today, we are telling the voters that the Fair District amendments do not matter. We’re saying no thanks to accountability and to fairness.”
  • Rep. Anna Eskamani criticizes the impact of the map on central Florida. “I’m very worried that the trajectory of this state not only feeds into an unconstitutional vision that benefits one party over the other but also the races of people.”
  • Jacksonville Rep. Tracie Davis (D) points out that DeSantis’ map uses the same road once used to redline neighborhoods to divide the 4th and 5th Districts. This effectively eliminates the seat represented by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Jr. (D).
  • Rep. Kamia Brown (D) criticizes her colleagues for ignoring Florida’s Fair District Amendment. “The people of Florida said they are tired of corrupt politics. Why aren’t we respecting that here?”
  • Rep. Frentice Driskell (D) condemns the redistricting bill for being unconstitutional. “We are denying minorities the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice, and that is wrong.” She also criticized her colleagues for acquiescing to the governor. “We are in dereliction of our duty as legislators — we were supposed to draw this map.”
  • Today, the Florida House will hold a final vote to approve DeSantis’ congressional map, S.B. 2-C. You can livestream the proceedings here, which are scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

  • The Florida Senate votes to approve DeSantis’ congressional map. The final vote is along party lines with 24 in favor and 15 against. The map still needs to be approved by the Florida House, which will hold a final vote tomorrow at the earliest.
  • Sen. Tina Polsky (D) notes that just 36% of Florida voters are Republicans, but DeSantis’ map will produce a 70% Republican congressional delegation. “I think that speaks volumes about the intent of the bill.”
  • Minority Leader Lauren Book (D) argues the map will not pass legal muster. “I insist on following the constitution. We should not be diminishing minority voters.”
  • Sen. Victor Torres (D) asks why DeSantis’ map fails to increase representation of minorities. “Why should we deviate from long standing tradition by passing maps that decrease, not increase minority access congressional seats?”
  • U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D), who is currently running for governor, decries the Legislature’s unwillingness to stand up to Gov. DeSantis. “It’s amazing to me how this governor has consolidated power into one human being. I mean, why even have one legislative branch?”
  • Sen. Audrey Gibson (D) criticizes the map for depriving Black voters in northern Florida of representation. “In an entire swath of this state, there will be no African American member of Congress, and likely no African American member could be elected while thousands of African Americans live there.”
  • The full Florida Senate is now considering DeSantis’ congressional map on the floor. You can livestream the proceedings here.
  • During his testimony yesterday, Alex Kelly, Gov. DeSantis’ deputy chief of staff, revealed the governor’s office hired Adam Foltz, a Republican redistricting operative, to help draw the governor’s map despite claiming partisan considerations played no role. Foltz previously drew maps in Wisconsin that were overturned by a federal court for violating the Voting Rights Act.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

  • The Senate adopts two amendments on the Senate floor. The first amendment requires that all state court actions against the congressional map be brought in Leon County. The second amendment appropriates $1 million for any redistricting litigation over the map. Both amendments suggest Florida Republicans know their map is vulnerable to legal challenges for diluting Black representation. The House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee added the same amendments to its bill.
  • The House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee votes along party lines to approve H.B. 1C, the map DeSantis proposed. The bill will now move to consideration by the full House.
  • The Senate Reapportionment Committee votes along party lines to approve S.B. 2-C, the map DeSantis proposed. The bill will now move to consideration by the full Senate.
  • Black Floridians speak out against DeSantis’ map for reducing their political power. In public comments, dozens of Florida voters object to the proposed congressional map and urged the Senate to reject it.
  • Rep. Kelly Skidmore (D) moves to have Gov. DeSantis’ deputy chief of staff Alex Kelly testify under oath. Rep. Tyler Sirois (R), the Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee chair, expresses strong objections. The motion fails.
  • The House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee is now meeting. You can view the livestream here.
  • The Senate Reapportionment Committee rejects an amendment to the congressional map offered by Sen. Ervin Rouson (D). Sen. Rouson’s amendment would have restored the 5th District in northern Florida as a Black-performing seat (meaning Black voters can elect the representative of their choice) and restored the 10th District as a Black-performing seat in the Orlando area.
  • Gov. Desantis’ deputy chief of staff, Alex Kelly, is now testifying in support of DeSantis’ map. Kelly drew the map for the governor, and helped draw a congressional map in 2011 that was overturned for violating the Florida Constitution.
  • The Senate Reapportionment Committee is now meeting. You can livestream the meeting here.
  • Florida’s special session begins at 12:00 p.m. today. The Florida House’s Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee is currently scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m., followed by the House Rules Committee at 7:00 p.m. Over in the Senate, the Senate Reapportionment Committee is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Gov. DeSantis’ congressional map has been introduced as Senate Bill 2-C and House Bill 1C.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

  • Gov. DeSantis releases a congressional map proposal after legislative leaders announced they would let him take the lead. The map would create 20 Republican-leaning seats and eight Democratic-leaning ones, giving Republicans a much greater partisan advantage than they currently have. The map also completely dismantles the Black-performing 5th District by dividing it between Republican districts.

Florida is one of the three states that has yet to enact its congressional map ahead of this year’s elections. Earlier this year, redistricting in the Sunshine State became mired in a dispute between Gov. DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature. The primary point of disagreement was north Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a district stretching from Tallahassee to Jacksonville designed to give Black voters an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. DeSantis claimed the district is an unconstitutional racial gerrymander while the Legislature maintained it is legally protected by the Voting Rights Act and Florida’s Fair Districts Amendment.

The Legislature ended up passing two congressional maps on March 4 in an attempt to appease DeSantis:
– A primary map with a much more compact 5th District in Jacksonville that would still likely give Black voters the opportunity to elect a representative of their choice;
– A back-up map that maintains the 5th District in its current form in case the primary map is struck down by a court.

Nevertheless, DeSantis vetoed the map a few weeks later on March 29, arguing the 5th District in both maps was a racial gerrymander in violation of the U.S. Constitution. He then announced the Legislature would return for a special session from April 19 to April 22 to draw a new congressional map.

Shortly after DeSantis announced his intention to veto the Legislature’s plan, two impasse lawsuits were filed — one in state court and one in federal court. The state court suit has since been voluntarily dismissed, but the federal suit is continuing to move along even as the Legislature prepares to pass a new map. Proposed maps by the plaintiffs and intervenors are due April 18. If DeSantis and the Legislature fail to agree on a map, this case will likely take center stage in Florida redistricting. If they do, other litigation is possible.