DeSantis vetoes congressional map

AP Photo/John Raoux

Following the 2020 census, Florida gained one congressional seat due to the state’s significant population growth. This probably explains how New York lost a seat as people flee Gotham for the Sunshine State. (New York’s elected officials may want to ponder this for a while.) This set off the expected round of work as legislators began drawing up new congressional maps in both states. In Florida, Republicans hold a majority in the legislature as well as the Governor’s office, so the process looked like it should be fairly smooth, with the GOP seeking to gain some additional advantages. But once the maps were drawn up and sent to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, he broke out his veto pen and sent the legislature back to the drawing board. The only reason to explain this decision seems to be that the Republicans had gone too easy on the Democrats when they probably could have picked up another seat or two by gerrymandering the maps a bit harder. (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday vetoed a congressional district map drawn by the Republican-led state legislature, heightening an intraparty clash over redistricting in the state.

Mr. DeSantis has locked horns with lawmakers from his own party over the once-a-decade process of redrawing voting districts based on census results. Mr. DeSantis this month had threatened to veto the Republican-led legislature’s map, and he said Tuesday that lawmakers will hold a special session next month to draw a new plan.

Florida has 27 congressional seats, with 16 Republican and 11 Democratic U.S. House members. Before the state’s August primary, Florida is supposed to add one more U.S. House seat based on the 2020 census results for a new total of 28 seats.

The map drawn up by the legislature likely wouldn’t change the balance all that much, leaving Republicans with a 17-11 advantage in the congressional delegation. DeSantis has his own map, however, that could boost that margin to 20-8. This would provide a significant boost to GOP efforts to take back the House Majority Leader’s office and the Speaker’s office as well. But is that really how we need to be playing this game? Hugh Hewitt definitely thinks so.

I’ve been on record here over the years as an opponent of all of the blatant gerrymandering that goes on, favoring some sort of computer-based algorithm that would divide all of the states up into equal, contiguous districts, letting the chips fall where they may. But I will confess that I’ve recently had second thoughts. It’s not because I don’t still believe in the idea, but rather because a plan like that only works if everyone participates equally. There’s just no point in throwing your own party under the bus in the interest of fairness if the other party is going to keep gaming the system like bank robbers.

And that’s certainly what’s been happening and continues to happen even now. Republicans have clearly gerrymandered the maps in states where they hold control, but don’t take that as a suggestion that Democrats don’t do the same or worse. It’s long been recognized that Maryland has one of the most torturously gerrymandered maps in the country thanks to the state’s Democratic supermajority.

In New York, as I mentioned above, they are in the process of finishing their new map, and it’s more blatant than even the one DeSantis is pitching. Even CBS News described it as “one of the most aggressive gerrymanders so far in the 2022 redistricting cycle.” Democrats already hold a 19-8 advantage in the congressional delegation, but the new map they are pushing would likely result in a lopsided 22-4 disparity.

If the Democrats are going to keep playing the game this way (and New York is far from the only place this is happening), the Republicans would be idiots to turn around and insist on “playing fairly.” If New York Democrats are going to try to waltz away with four additional seats via gerrymandering, the GOP needs to make up that difference somewhere, so it may as well be in Florida.

I still think it would be nice to go to the computer-generated model I suggested above, but we would need both parties in all fifty states to agree to it. That sort of rule can’t be imposed from the national level because each state is left to determine its own maps. And the sad reality is that no matter which party is in power in each state, they are unlikely to voluntarily change the system in a way that would cost them seats in Congress.