DeSantis slammed for 'racist move' that would diminish Black voting power in Florida

DeSantis slammed for 'racist move' that would diminish Black voting power in Florida
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, speaks with members of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., leadership during the governor's first visit to the base since becoming governor, Jan. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Solomon Cook)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing backlash for his aggressive push to redraw congressional maps, an initiative that would likely diminish the political power of Black voters in his state.

A comprehensive piece compiled by The Guardian's Andrew Witherspoon and Sam Levine is shedding light on Florida's latest Republican-led initiative to redraw the state's congressional maps. Their report comes as the Florida legislature prepares to meet in an effort to discuss the governor's proposal which would ultimately give Republicans a substantial congressional delegate advantage.

"That’s a four-seat increase from the 16-11 advantage Republicans hold now (Florida gained an additional seat in Congress because of population growth)," Witherspoon and Levine specified. However, DeSantis' proposal is not one that has come without opposition.

Voting rights advocates and redistricting experts are sounding the alarm on the governor's calculated partisan proposal. Michael Li, a redistricting professional who works for the Brennan Center for Justice, lambasted the Republican governor's efforts as he insisted that the aggressive move is not only a political power tactic but also a racist one.

“Sometimes you have to apply Occam’s razor and the simplest explanation is the right one … This is a deeply racist move that targets Black political power,” Li said. “What he’s doing in the Florida fifth just seems gratuitous. It seems mean-spirited and really designed to really put an oomph on things.”

Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of the community engagement group, Equal Ground, raised her concerns about the proposed map for Florida's fifth congressional district, comprised of both Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Fla., as she noted how it would disenfranchise Black voters.

“They’re going to be losing access to resources and access to someone who could speak to them within that particular fifth district,” she said. “Not having someone who represents those swath of individuals from Jacksonville from Tallahassee means that we are diluting their voting power, means that the governor is diluting their voting power. And the governor is taking their ability to be heard through the electoral process.”

Li also weighed in with his concerns about the proposed redistricting map in District 5. “If you object to a compact Jacksonville district, your real motive is really clear,” Li said. “You’re just left with the idea that the real problem is that there’s still a district where Black people have power. And that’s the problem that Governor DeSantis has.”

The criticism of DeSantis comes amid his advocating for similar changes federally. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has expressed apprehension about the idea of using race as a consideration for the redrawing of district maps. Li also highlighted the problem with DeSantis attempting to lump voters into certain categories based on race.

“The traditional understanding from the supreme court has been that you can think about race, you just can’t put voters in districts only because of race,” Li said. “Governor DeSantis basically is taking the position that if you think at all about trying to draw a district that’s a Black district or a Latino district, that the simple thought of thinking about race means that it’s unconstitutional. That’s really aggressive.”

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