Voting-rights groups sound alarm on latest FL redistricting maps, citing minority concerns

By: - January 18, 2022 3:00 pm

Cecline Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Voting-rights organizations have been sounding alarms last week about redrawn legislative and Congressional district maps by the Florida Senate, over minority representation and lack of transparency.

Meanwhile, the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis this weekend provided a Congressional map that also drew criticism.

“This redistricting process is flying through the Legislature without adequate discussion or consideration of how it will impact minority voters,” said Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, in a statement released Tuesday about the Senate maps. “We hope legislators will take a pause and consider the impact of these actions before approving the new maps.”

The Senate is scheduled to debate the maps Wednesday, in the Legislature’s sixth day of business of the 2022 session.

The House of Representatives will propose its own congressional and legislative maps. But those maps are still at the workshop level.

On Sunday, DeSantis’ office submitted a congressional map of its own, on the official redistricting portal, website.

It was an unusual move for a governor, according to POLITICO and other media outlets. It was quickly denounced on Twitter as improperly favoring Republican candidates among Florida’s 28-Congressional district delegation.

“I look forward to my team deposing him and his staff to fully understand the illegal partisan motivations of this map,” attorney Marc Elias tweeted on Monday. He specializes in pro-democracy litigation nationally and is part of a legal team fighting GOP-sponsored election reforms adopted by the Florida Legislature last year.

Elias tweeted Tuesday that Florida is more likely to be sued because of DeSantis’ intervention but he did not provide details.

DeSantis’ general counsel, Ryan Newman, provided a statement to Florida Politics on Monday. It said:  “We have legal concerns with the congressional redistricting maps under consideration in the Legislature. We have submitted an alternative proposal, which we can support, that adheres to federal and state requirements and addresses our legal concerns, while working to increase district compactness, minimize county splits where feasible, and protect minority voting populations. Because the governor must approve any congressional map passed by the Legislature, we wanted to provide our proposal as soon as possible and in a transparent manner.”

Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orange County tweeted on Monday:  “His map is actually illegal, and it torches minority representation. I call BS on their ‘legal’ concerns.”

The president of the League of Women Voters of Florida told the Phoenix in a separate statement Tuesday that it sees immediate cause for concern in DeSantis’ proposal.

Scoon said: “The League is in the process of analyzing the governor’s proposed map and has not yet had the opportunity for an in-depth review, but a preliminary review of the governor’s redistricting plan for congressional maps seems to give inadequate adherence to the Fair Districts created by Floridian Citizen Initiative in 2010 and the VRA [federal Voting Rights Act] 1965.”

“On initial review, the governor’s map seems to provide one less African American coalition district than the Senate plan.”

Initial analyses by Dave’s Redistricting and The Redistrict Network suggest DeSantis’ proposed congressional map creates districts that favor Republicans in 18 districts and Democrats in 10, a shift from the current districts that would reduce the number of Democrats likely to be elected. The issue aligns with racial concerns because some minority districts, especially Black-majority districts, tend to favor Democrats.

The League, along with the Fair Districts Coalition, which includes Florida Common Cause, All On The Line, Florida Conservation Voters, Unidos US and others, told Senate leaders by letter last week and through in-person testimony that the GOP-controlled Legislature is embracing a low bar by “protecting” minority districts created using 2010 Census data but not creating additional minority districts warranted by significant growth since then in Black and Hispanic populations as documented in the 2020 Census.

“It is undeniable that Florida’s minority population has grown since the creation of the current maps in 2016, which used data from the 2010 Census,” Scoon said in a League statement Tuesday. “At this time, it does not appear as if the Senate has explored the possibility that additional minority districts could be created with data from the 2020 Census. The proper steps must be taken before new district lines are approved to ensure that African American and Hispanic voters are fairly represented in the political process.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper.