DeSantis Vetoing Congressional Map May Spell Trouble for Midterm Democrats

Governor Ron DeSantis' promise to veto a new, recently approved congressional map might cause trouble for Florida Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections, according to experts.

In an already demanding midterm election year, the Democratic party now faces the fight against a Republican-majority congressional map, submitted in January by DeSantis, that would break up U.S. Representative Al Lawson's district, one of the two historically Black districts in the state.

The House plans to vote on the congressional maps on Friday, and DeSantis has already proposed his plan to veto the decision. He called out the redistricting plans for being unconstitutional, condemning the Senate plans for racial gerrymandering. On Friday, DeSantis tweeted, "I will veto the congressional reapportionment plan currently being debated by the House. DOA."

And last month, DeSantis told reporters, "We will not be signing any congressional map that has an unconstitutional gerrymander in it, and that is going to be the position that we stick to."

Lonna Atkeson, an American Political Scientist and Director of LeRoy Collins Institute told Newsweek that there are only two options for the midterms in November. Either the governor's veto warrants a special session and attempts to revise the plan are made before November, or they take it to court.

"The best scenario for democrats is to stick to the current map," Atkeson said. "These are really about numbers. If DeSantis was to sign the bill and move forward, Democrats would lose two seats. If they adopted DeSantis' plan, then they'd have 18 leaning-Republican congressional districts."

Under the governor's proposed map, 18 districts would be in favor of the Republican party, and Lawson's district would take an 11 percent reduction in its Black voter population, down to 34 percent.

The state Senate's congressional plan, however, would only put 16 seats in position to win Republican standing, and it left Lawson's Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville district in place.

"Obviously, both branches have to agree and so that is going to clearly affect the outcome," Atkeson said. "I can't imagine the governor signing them anyway. Either they go back in and give him what he wants, or they come to a compromise, but he is being very strong. He wants this lawsuit, there may be other political reasons for wanting to move down this very complicated road."

The primary goal for DeSantis is to question the racial redistricting, Atkeson added. "He wants to question whether that's actually a legitimate policy in 2022, should we still have that? His goal is to give more power to states and party governments to make more partisan gerrymandering."

But while DeSantis can veto any congressional map passed by state legislators, the legislators are prohibited from letting politics become involved when redistricting under the state constitution.

"There's still so much uncertainty, its hard to say what's going to happen in November," Atkeson told Newsweek. "When you get to draw the maps, you can draw them to favor a particular party and the desire of every state legislature in the country is to make a map that benefits their party, and that's going on in Florida."

Newsweek reached out to Governor DeSantis' office for comment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Holds Press Conference
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' promised veto of the new congressional maps also promises difficulty for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. Here, DeSantis holds a press conference at the Miami Dade College’s North Campus on January 26 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images