ORLANDO, Fla. - Democrats held press conferences around the state to protest the Florida Legislature’s passage of the state's redistricting map. Many critics of the map say it heavily favors Republicans and doesn’t properly reflect the state’s demographics.
"This was a direct attack not only on Black voices and voters but also on democracy itself," said Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee.
An attack that the chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus believes is coming directly from the Governor’s Office. Brown says the remapping could cut the states black representation in Washington in half.
"We are now forced to prioritize the needs of one man over everyone else and that’s the Governor himself," said Brown.
Brown was surrounded by other Democrats at the press conference who held a sit-in in Tallahassee to protest the new map. Governor Ron DeSantis and his team proposed the map after vetoing the ones originally passed by the Legislature.
"Now the governor is essentially grading his own work," said Rep. Travaris McCurdy, D-Orlando.
The previous congressional map had 27 seats with 16 of those going to Republicans. The new map has 28 seats with a projected 20 in favor of the GOP. Critics feel this doesn’t properly represent the state’s registered voters that is split nearly 50-50 between the two major parties.
"Under these maps, [Republicans] will represent 70% of the state. It’s clearly gerrymandering. It’s clearly unconstitutional," said Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee.
Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, doesn’t see the map that way. Instead, he sees it as balanced.
"Democrats wanted racial gerrymandering. Democrats wanted us to use racism when drawing up maps. This map doesn’t do that. It empowers every person's vote equally," said Fine. "I think it’s constitutional. I think it’s good that now citizens know what congressional district they live in and candidates can now decide where they want to run."
"Of the maps you could draw, this would be one of the more favorable maps to Republicans that would be possible out there," said John Hanley, a professor of political science at the University of Center Florida.
Hanley believes the maps that were proposed by the Legislature originally were more in line with what they would have liked.
"It’s a very interesting division amongst Republicans in the state of Florida where you have the governor saying push, push, push as many seats as we can get and that’s not even necessarily what the Legislature wanted," said Hanley.
Instead, Hanley sees this mapping as a possible way for DeSantis to improve his national standing.
"His incentives are very different he cares more about what happening in Washington probably more than the legislators who are in Tallahassee," said Hanley.
Democrats have said they will take legal action against the state for gerrymandering, but the legal process may be too slow to change anything before November.
"Even if the maps are struck down it’s likely that they would be able to stay in place for the 2022 election and only change in 2024," said Hanley.