So the backstory here is that Florida is one of three remaining states that, prior to today, had not yet completed its redistricting maps. In early March, Gov. DeSantis announced he would veto the version of the maps passed by the Florida House. Then at the end of March, DeSantis called for a special legislative session to approve final maps. Yesterday the Florida Senate voted to approve the maps drawn up by DeSantis office:
The Florida Senate voted in favor of the map Wednesday morning. Now it must pass the House, where a vote is expected on Thursday before the special session is adjourned.
Neither chamber has made any changes to the map proposed by Gov. DeSantis, which significantly increases the partisan advantage for Republicans over the version passed by the legislature that he vetoed. The map also dismantles or reshapes several districts represented by Black Democratic lawmakers, notably District 5 in North Florida.
And that brings us today when the final vote to approve the maps is happening in the House. Florida Democrats went all out on a protest stunt complete with signs, prayers and chanting.
Pictures from House protest over redistricting bill pic.twitter.com/c79NqCBzfK
— Jeffrey Schweers🐊🐈 (@jeffschweers) April 21, 2022
NBC News’s Marc Caputo has video:
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) April 21, 2022
But it was all for naught. After about an hour, Republicans returned. Here’s Caputo’s description of how it ended:
Under Florida House rules, the speaker has the right to have the members forcibly removed, but after an hour of the sit-in, he did not exercise that authority.
Instead, the GOP majority took the floor in force an hour later, determined to pass the map. Hinson stood at the center of the floor, on the seal, while Nixon and McCurdy sat beside her.
Nixon shouted: “when Black votes are under attack, what do we do?
“Stand up fight back!” McCurdy shouted back.
The two engaged in the call-and-response chant, drowning out Sprowls voice on the speaker system as he tried to talk about decorum.
But Republicans could hear him enough, and when he called for a vote, the map easily passed, and the Republican majority erupted in loud applause, drowning out McCurdy and Nixon.
Here’s video of that moment (2nd clip below).
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) April 21, 2022
Florida Speaker Chris Sprowls subsequently issued a statement about the protest which pointed out the Democrats started their protest after all of their allotted debate time had expired.
Today, a group of Representatives decided to hijack the legislative process, violating House Rules and interfering with the rights of their fellow elected colleagues to debate important legislation before the body. We saw a group of Florida House members with microphones at their desk, a statewide audience, and an opportunity to vote on behalf of their constituents, and they instead chose to pretend they had to stage a protest to be heard.
House Democrats requested and agreed to 75 minutes of debate time on Congressional maps, and they used the entire time. They did not request any additional time prior to the group’s disruption. After offering multiple opportunities to debate the bills in an orderly way, we carried on and completed our Constitutional duty to pass a Congressional map. Ultimately, this group tried to drown out the voices of the other elected Representatives and the 22 million Floridians they represent.
I have no doubt this move will be celebrated by many on the left but this is nothing short of an attempt to use the heckler’s veto inside the Florida House. The whole point of having rules of order to allocate time to various parties and speakers is to avoid this kind of scene.
More to the point, it’s not as if Democrats haven’t also pursued redistricting which benefitted them in states where they hold a majority. In fact, Democrats were so aggressive that they actually gained an advantage overall despite having control of fewer districts:
Although Republicans went into the redistricting cycle with control over drawing more districts, it is actually Democrats who have gained ground from the process. So far, redistricting has created 10 more Democratic-leaning seats nationally, six fewer Republican-leaning seats and five fewer highly competitive seats. This is due to aggressive map-drawing by Democrats in states such as New York as well as court decisions overturning Republican gerrymanders in North Carolina.
If you click that link above you’ll see that FiveThirtyEight concludes Democrats have gained ground from redistricting in six states. If you include Florida, there are five states where Republicans gained ground.
Update: Meant to add this. Marc Elias has already vowed that Florida will be sued.
Florida will be sued. https://t.co/wkoecH0Qbb
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) April 21, 2022
I don’t see any reason to think that will accomplish much but I guess we’ll see.