DeSantis Undoes Racial Gerrymandering, Enraged Left Calls Him Racist

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis revealed new districting maps last week, breaking up a majority black district and drawing outrage from Democrats and the political left.

The controversy is about the breaking up of District 5, a majority-black voting district,  of a long strip at the top of the state running from the beginning of the panhandle to near the east coast. Late last year, Florida’s Republican legislature had drawn congressional maps that kept districts intact. DeSantis rejected the map, drew his own, and pushed it past the skittish GOP legislature.

This redrawn map does two things. It breaks up the racially gerrymandered District 5. As a result, the new map gives republicans an electoral advantage.

 

One Jacksonville activist, Ben Frazier, talked to the Washington Post at the beginning of the year when the battle began. Frazier compared DeSantis to segregationists for re-integrating these racial populations.

“This governor is attempting to turn back the hands of time. He’s not leading us forward. He’s leading us backward. He’s doing the same thing that Orval Faubus in Arkansas and George Wallace in Alabama did. He’s just doing it in a new suit.”

Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, whose top lawyer was hired by DeSantis’ office, weighed in on the matter in an email to ProPublica. He argued that the former map was gerrymandered and that DeSantis was setting it right, even if he had to override the legislature.

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“Florida’s Governor fought for a legal map — unlike the gerrymandered plan the Governor rightly vetoed,”

The Supreme Court precedent supports this rationale. In the 1993 Supreme Court Case Shaw v Reno, the majority essentially ruled that if a districting plan is so irrational, the only explanation for it is racial separation. If there’s no sufficient justification for the separation, then that plan violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

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By irrational, the majority refers to a district’s shape or design. The DeSantis team implicitly argues that the former strip-shaped District 5 is, in fact, irrational, especially when compared to DeSantis’ new, large, blocky districts.

A racial motive for maintaining the old District 5 shape is not a secret either. The Palm Beach Post admitted as much with its focus on the District as majority black and a description of its creation.

“One of the districts, held by Democrat Al Lawson, had been created by the Florida Supreme Court just seven years before. Stretching along a swath of north Florida once dominated by tobacco and cotton plantations, it had drawn together Black communities largely populated by the descendants of sharecroppers and slaves.”

Those around DeSantis have argued that abiding by the Constitution on this issue is the primary motive behind the redistricting; even internal emails confirm this motive for the new map. A tweet from the watchdog group American Oversight reveals a DeSantis team member requesting an expert witness to testify how the pre-2022 map violated the 14th Amendment. The email also details why the district is irrational and racially motivated.

“The House proposal retains  Congressional District 5 in northern Florida, which we believe is an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. It stretches roughly 200 miles to connect a minority community in Jacksonville with a minority community in Tallahassee and Gadsden county…”

 

Political enemies of DeSantis have argued that the new map violates an amendment of the Florida State constitution that prohibits gerrymandering for political advantage. They say that DeSantis worked with a GOP-affiliated law firm to create the map alone, rendering it illegal.

Those around DeSantis hold that DeSantis’ hand was forced by the unconstitutional District 5 and that the Republican electoral advantage is an ancillary benefit. It’s important to note that the original District 5 created a Democratic electoral advantage.

Kincaid said as much in his email to ProPublica.

“If Governor DeSantis retained some of the best redistricting lawyers and experts in the country to advise him then that speaks to the good judgment of the Governor, not some alleged partisan motive.”


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