Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Republican-controlled government of Florida is attempting to push through a law that is designed to target minority populations within the state. The Root reports that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is attempting to push through a redistricting map in the state that would eliminate two districts currently represented by Black Democrats, Val Demings and Al Lawson.
DeSantis is taking extraordinary steps to push through a skewed voting map.
NBC News reports that the moves being taken by DeSantis are extreme, even by Republican standards. DeSantis is threatening to veto the state district map passed by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature earlier this month. That map preserved the two Black Democrats’ congressional districts, in defiance of an alternative map drawn by DeSantis that eliminated these two seats, which could be a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Florida state constitution. Now, DeSantis is poised to veto the legislature’s map and recall them for a special session to redraw the map. University of Florida Professor Michael McDonald said that a governor creating a district map is unprecedented in Florida history, and DeSantis would probably be the only governor in recent years to veto a map passed by his party.
Florida has passed or proposed many restrictive laws.
If this all sounds familiar, that is because Florida has been passing many restrictive laws over the past few years aimed at disempowering or disenfranchising Black and other minority residents while protecting systems of oppression and discrimination. To be clear, this current move by DeSantis is separate from the voter restriction laws Florida put in place last year that are now being challenged in federal court. This is also separate from the special police force that DeSantis proposed would enforce restrictive voting laws. This is also separate from a law that banned critical race theory and made schools scared to even teach about the Civil Rights Movement. This is also separate from the additional law that will allow parents to sue teachers who they accuse of teaching CRT. This is also separate from a law that would have prohibited schools and businesses from talking about racism. This is also separate from a law that would criminalize discussions of LGBTQ+ identity with young students.
DeSantis has a history of going out of his way to limit Black voting power.
This is not the first time the DeSantis government has attempted to circumvent the spirit of the law to disenfranchise Black voters. After Floridians voted in 2018 to restore voting rights to residents with felony convictions, DeSantis and the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a law that would continue to deny voting rights to these folks until they had paid all fines and restitution orders related to their convictions. Although this law was compared to a poll tax, federal courts allowed it to stand, thus preventing hundreds or perhaps thousands of Floridians — many of them Black or Latino — from voting in the state.
DeSantis’ move is a power play ahead of a possible presidential run.
McDonald argued that DeSantis strong-arming his party is a political flex by the governor. DeSantis has emerged as a star within the Republican party because of his extreme positions on everything from COVID-19 to race. The Florida governor, seen as a potential rival to defeated former president and current Florida resident Donald Trump, is considered one of the few Republicans who could challenge Trump for the 2024 presidential denomination.
By exercising such extraordinary actions on issues such as voting, DeSantis has the potential to out-Trump Trump and win over the MAGA base, and he seems more than willing to throw Black people, and even more moderate members of his party, under the bus to do so. As the districting fight continues, the governor’s radical views and political ambitions continue to make life difficult for many Floridians.