I have no idea what is going through the heads of some of the Florida Republicans currently in charge of the redistricting process. With Democrat gerrymanders reaching extreme levels in places like Illinois, California, and New York, you'd think all members of the GOP would be united in fighting fire with fire. Instead, some have chosen the path of not just unilateral surrender, but of actively seeking to protect Democrat seats.
Florida's Senate passed a map that would put the Republican advantage at only four seats (16-12 R to D), essentially handing the state's pickups due to the census to Democrats. Florida's House has not been much better on the issue. State Rep. Thomas Leek (R-FL), who chairs the committee in charge of redistricting, asked Gov. DeSantis to provide a witness to argue the governor's case for a legal map. He then turned around and enabled the trashing of that witness as biased even though he was there because the House requested he appear.
State Rep. Tyler Sirois (R-FL) went so far as to join with his Democrat colleagues in outright opposing any attempt to adjust the current map, actively siding with arguments that minority representation overrides legal questions about district compactness.
“We're here, big picture, trying to weigh what is best for the residents of Florida,” said Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Parkland.
She asked if there was “a compelling justification” to have less representation from minority candidates “in favor of more compactness?”
Popper continued with his warning. “This district is going to have problems in federal court,” he said.
By the end of the meeting, Sirois commended Hunschofsky because her question “just cut to the heart of the matter.”
He then read the redistricting standards of the Florida Constitution and concluded: “We have to follow the law.”
“I want to assuage any doubt that may be in front of you today,” he said. “This is a legally sound map. It's a constitutionally compliant map. Please join me in voting yes.”
One source familiar with the matter told RedState that some of the Republicans on the committee are actually trying to protect Democrat Rep. Al Lawson from losing his seat. He currently holds Florida's District 5, which is, in the opinion of many legal scholars, an illegal district. Instead of fixing the problem, the Florida House has largely kept the district intact (it is renamed FL-3 on the new map), drawing it to span over 200 miles in order to connect two completely unrelated minority populations. In short, these Florida Republicans are supporting a probable illegal gerrymander to boost Democrats.
As I said in my previous article on this matter, I'm flabbergasted at how this is unfolding. Why are these Republicans so invested in protecting the seats of the opposing political party to the point where they'd risk having their entire map thrown out as unconstitutional? That leads to the obvious question of who is buttering their bread to produce that outcome?
For his part, Gov. DeSantis has already pledged to veto any map that includes an illegal district.
BREAKING: @GovRonDeSantis announced earlier today during a press conference that he will veto any congressional map with “unconstitutional districts” and the legislature can “take that to the bank.” pic.twitter.com/pzyxsNgWwF— Bryce_FL (@Bryce__FL) February 28, 2022
That's what leadership looks like, but it's insane that he's even having to levy that threat. Republicans need to understand the stakes going November's mid-term. Democrats are playing for keeps with redistricting in their states. The GOP can not afford to give away districts, and whatever kind of inside baseball is going on here needs to stop.
DeSantis' move sets up a big showdown which would require calling a special legislative session, and it's a fight worth having. We'll see how that goes, but time is running out to get this process done.