Hundreds protest at Florida Capitol as special session on redrawing congressional maps begins

Lawmakers were met by a large crowd of protesters saying a new congressional map will silence Black voters.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 5:02 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Florida Legislature returned to Tallahassee Tuesday for a special session on redistricting, and lawmakers were met by a large crowd of protesters saying a new congressional map will silence Black voters.

In an unprecedented move, Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed a map from lawmakers and drawn his own. It would likely cut in half the number of districts with Black representation and create more Republican seats.

Opponents say Gov. DeSantis should not have the power to shape the districts in his vision. The legislature is supposed to draw the maps; however, it conceded the responsibility to DeSantis after he vetoed their proposal.

One of the most hotly debated districts is Congressional District Five, which Congressman Al Lawson (D-Fla.) represents. It spans Black communities across North Florida, from Gadsden County to Jacksonville.

DeSantis says the district is the result of racial gerrymandering, and his map shrinks it to only parts of the Jacksonville area.

But speakers at the protest argued that reducing the size of district five would silence the voices of Black voters. The move would also leave just one district, that leans Republican, covering the entire Big Bend.

“What this means is that our community will lose a Democrat to represent our issues, our values, our thoughts, our aspirations. The door will be closed and we will be marginalized,” Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor says.

Proctor also argued that congressional maps should be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. As it’s drawn now, DeSantis’ map tilts the balance in Florida even more toward Republicans.

The other historically-Black district in question is Congressional District 10 in Orlando, which Congresswoman and U.S. Senate candidate Val Demings represents.

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