MIAMI (CBSMiami) — As the Florida legislature prepares to start a special session Tuesday, Black lawmakers in Miami criticized a congressional redistricting plan proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida Senator Shevrin Jones, Representative Felicia Robinson and Representative Dotie Joseph joined elected officials, community activists and concerned citizens to respond to what they call Gov. DeSantis’ unconstitutional congressional maps that dilute Black districts.

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Rep. Joseph said that DeSantis wants to “take us backwards” with his congressional maps.

“As I stand here, I think about the progress that we’ve made. Look at the elected officials you see behind us. We have made tremendous progress in this state. And we have a governor who wants to take us backwards. We’re not going back. My message to the governor is to let my people vote,” said Rep. Joseph. She also described this is a “full frontal attack on the voting laws” that have been established in the state of Florida.

“So, right now, as you heard before, we had two constitutional duties this past legislative session. One was to pass a balanced budget, and the other was to pass constitutionally compliant maps, which we did. The pharaoh of Florida couldn’t do anything about the maps at the state level. But he exercised this unusual veto power, which is a significant abrogation of the separation of powers. The legislature has its job, and the executive branch has its job. He needs to stay in his lane.”

DeSantis vetoed a congressional map approved during the regular session that ended March 14, triggering the need for a special session as part of the once-a-decade reapportionment process.

Earlier this year DeSantis said, “We are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin. That is wrong. That is not the way we’ve governed in the state of Florida.” He argues that a U.S. Supreme Court opinion said districts can’t be drawn with race as a primary factor.

DeSantis’ office released his proposed map last week that likely would increase the number of Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation. DeSantis’ proposed changes to North Florida’s Congressional District 5 have drawn the most controversy.

The district, which currently stretches from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee, was drawn in the past to help elect a Black candidate. It is held by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat.

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DeSantis said the district would be redrawn in a “race-neutral manner” and has proposed placing it in the Jacksonville area.

Democrats cried foul.

“One of those seats is actually a Black and brown seat,” said State Senator Annette Taddeo. “So you could have either or minority represented. And we can’t as Hispanics sit back and say, ‘That’s a Black people problem.’ It is a Florida problem, because all of us have to have a seat at the table.”

But the governor’s plan received key backing in the Senate.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, endorsed the map.

“After thoroughly reviewing the governor’s submission and a discussion with our legal counsel, I have determined that the governor’s map reflects standards the Senate can support,” Rodrigues wrote in a memo to senators.

Florida Democrats are fighting back.

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“The problem is we in Florida are governed by a GOP that has decided to just throw up its hands and give in to the bully. We did our job. We even gave him a, not we, let me be clear. The Republicans who control the legislature gave him a backup map just in case he didn’t like the constitutional one. And he still vetoed both of them. Because why? Once you give people like this an inch, they take more than a mile, said Rep. Joseph. “This is a, make no mistake about this. This is an attack, a full-frontal attack on the voting rights laws that we have established in this state, both at the federal level and at the state level,” she said.

CBSMiami.com Team