Florida’s DeSantis vetoes state congressional map, tells lawmakers try again

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday vetoed new congressional maps drawn by his fellow Republicans in the state legislature and called a special legislative session in mid-April to redraw the lines.

The eventual outcome in Florida, which will add a 28th district this year based on population growth, could have a significant impact on the battle for control of Congress in November’s midterm elections.

Republicans need to flip only five seats to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and enable the party to block much of Democratic President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Florida is one of five states that have not completed their once-a-decade congressional redistricting. In most states, lawmakers control the process, which frequently leads to partisan gerrymandering, in which district boundaries are manipulated to give one party an advantage in elections.

Democrats could end up gaining one to two seats across the country through redistricting, according to Dave Wasserman, a redistricting expert at Cook Political Report. Initial expectations have been that Republicans would use their control of key states to lock in a national advantage.

Democrats have benefited from favorable court rulings in states such as North Carolina and Pennsylvania that rejected Republican-backed maps. The party has implemented aggressive gerrymanders of its own in states such as New York and Illinois.

But Democrats remain underdogs to maintain a House majority given Biden’s mediocre approval ratings and the fact that the president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections.

DeSantis, who is running for re-election this year and is widely seen as a top White House contender in 2024, had previously taken the unusual step of proposing his own congressional map as an alternative to those under consideration by lawmakers.

His plan would eliminate a Black-majority district — currently held by Democratic U.S. Representative Al Lawson — that stretches from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. The governor and civil rights groups have clashed over whether state and federal law requires any map to preserve, or dismantle, that district.

«We have a responsibility to produce maps for our citizens that do not contain unconstitutional racial gerrymanders,» DeSantis said in a statement on Tuesday.

Charlie Crist, the Florida Democratic congressman who is seeking to challenge DeSantis this fall, tweeted that DeSantis’ veto is an «authoritarian play to rig our democracy.»

DeSantis’ map would give Republicans control of as many as 20 of the state’s districts, up from the current 16-11 split, Wasserman said. Florida has the third-most congressional districts in the country, after California and Texas.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Berkrot)

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