Fentrice Driskell questions if two-map solution will pass court muster

An insistence to bring two congressional maps to the House floor could spell legal trouble for redistricting according to Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat serving on the House Redistricting Committee.

At a press availability with Democratic leadership, Driskell laid out concerns that a bill advanced by the committee (HB 7503) takes a risky approach. Specifically, she’s concerned the House seems poised to attach two maps to a bill that potentially could go to the Governor.

“Two maps,” she repeated. “I emphasize that because our obligation is to pass a constitutionally compliant map, singular. So many of us at the committee felt that we were essentially running afoul of the constitutional requirements for the legislature to produce a singular map.”

Republican leaders decided to pass a primary congressional map (H 8017) that seems to acknowledge Gov. Ron DeSantis’ objections to an existing North Florida district that stretches from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.

But the House has continued to hold that a prohibition in Florida’s Constitution on diminishing Black voters’ ability to elect a Representative of their choice means there must be a Black performing district in North Florida. The primary map has a Jacksonville-centric district where House staff believes Black voters will still control a Democratic Primary in a seat that performs for Democrats.

But legislation coming to the floor also sets out a fallback plan if the courts say maps must retain a configuration similar to Florida’s 5th Congressional District, represented now by Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson. In that event, the bill offers a secondary map (H 8015).

Driskell doesn’t know if this strategy will cut it.

“The leadership on the Redistricting Committee was looking to all the totality of the circumstances, looking to what the Governor has done by interjecting himself into the conversation and proposing his blatantly unconstitutional map, considering that there might be litigation down the line,” Driskell said. “I think that leadership on the committee thought, ‘Well, maybe if we introduce these two maps, we can avoid the possibility of the court taking initiative to draw its own. We can let the court know what the intent of the Legislature is in drawing the secondary map.’

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