Florida’s Legislature approved new congressional boundaries Thursday under the insistence of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The map would lessen Black representation in the U.S. House and ultimately work to the advantage of Republicans by eliminating two districts represented by Black Democrats. In addition, the map disassembles Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Democrat Al Lawson and connects Black communities.
This means that a city like Jacksonville, which has the largest Black population in the state, is divided into two Republican-leaning districts. Now the Florida congressional delegation has 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats. The approved map could assist Republicans gain four seats in the US House of Representatives in November.
With the numbers in favor of Republicans, DeSantis could win the White House in 2024 if he decides to run. The new map also moves Florida’s 10th Congressional District, a seat represented by Val Demings (a Black Democrat currently running for US Senate) east toward whiter communities.
As the final vote tally was taken during the special 3-day session, a makeshift sit-in occurred on the chamber floor by Black lawmakers. The measure passed 68-38. During the protest, Rep. Angie Nixon shouted: “When Black votes are under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back. I am occupying the Florida House chamber floors to ensure that Black people will not be forgotten about. We are here to stay. We are occupying the floor, we’re doing good trouble. Ron DeSantis is a bully, Ron DeSantis does not care about Black people.”
Of Florida’s 14.3 million registered voters, 36% are Republicans and 35% Democrats; the majority of the remainder have no party affiliation. This isn’t the first time Florida has been in the news for working to erase the legacy of Black people in the state. Just earlier this week, the state made headlines for rejecting more than 50 math textbooks because of critical race theory.