Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday reiterated his intention to veto a congressional redistricting plan that he contends is unconstitutional.
Lawmakers, who passed the plan this month, have not formally sent it to DeSantis, and congressional redistricting is now the subject of two lawsuits. DeSantis said discussions are needed on the next steps for the once-a-decade reapportionment process, which could include calling lawmakers back for a special legislative session.
“We will lay out a lot of the objections that we have, like we had previously, but I think we’ll do an even more thorough crafting,” DeSantis said of his anticipated veto message, as he appeared Monday in the Capitol’s 4th floor rotunda to mark the end of the 2022 regular session.
DeSantis, who has pushed his own map designs, contends, at least in part, that a sprawling North Florida district is unconstitutional and should be condensed into the Jacksonville area.
DeSantis also argues the way state lawmakers have interpreted the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments, which voters passed in 2010 to prevent gerrymandering, doesn’t comply with the U.S. Constitution.
“My view is, you know, let’s do it in a way that is going to be consistent with both documents,” DeSantis said. “But, we’ll get there. We’ll make that work and we’ll figure it out.”
Lawmakers have speculated DeSantis is trying to set up a challenge to the Fair Districts amendments and to the federal Voting Rights Act.
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, declined to comment on DeSantis’ intentions on Monday.
“We’ll see what the action is and circle back after that,” Rodrigues said.
When the Senate approved a House congressional redistricting plan on March 4, Rodrigues noted that gubernatorial vetoes typically include letters that can provide guidance about how proposals should be changed.
Trying to satisfy DeSantis, lawmakers passed an unusual plan that included a primary map and a backup map.
The primary map takes a similar approach to a map DeSantis crafted to revamp Congressional District 5, which stretches from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee and is held by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. DeSantis wants to concentrate the district in the Jacksonville area. The backup plan would be more in line with what the Senate originally proposed, which would keep District 5 closer to its current configuration.
But while the House plan tried to move closer to DeSantis’ position, the governor vowed to veto it. Proposals pushed by DeSantis could be more favorable to Republicans than the Legislature’s plans.
Meanwhile, lawsuits were filed Friday in state and federal courts calling for judges to step in. The lawsuits say DeSantis’ veto threat jeopardizes the chances an agreement will be reached before candidate qualifying begins in June.
The lawsuits, filed in Leon County circuit court and the federal Northern District of Florida, argue that it would be unconstitutional to continue using current congressional district lines if a new map does not emerge. That is because of population shifts during the past decade and Florida’s addition of one new district this year because of population growth.
The federal case was filed by the groups Common Cause Florida and FairDistricts Now and voters in Leon, Gadsden, Orange, Lee and Miami-Dade counties. Nine people from Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Marion, Lee and Duval counties are plaintiffs in the circuit-court lawsuit.