After months of improperly (and probably illegally) sitting on calling Special Elections to three majority-minority South Florida legislative seats, the Governor finally moved on Thursday. Here are some points on this:
– In 2000, in a safe Democratic seat, when Representative Ed Healey passed away during the second week of session, Jeb Bush called a Special Election quickly and Susan Bucher took her seat before the end of session. Total time from Healey’s death to Bucher taking her seat was 44 days. DeSantis has sat on these vacancies for almost twice as long as the entire process lasted in that case.
– Historically, it takes Governor’s 7.6 days to call Special Elections after vacancies.
– With four different Black majority (we use that term because of the large Caribbean Black population in southeast Florida that does not always identify as “African-American”) seats in 2021, DeSantis has taken 30+ days to call Special Elections, in this most recent case it took him 87 days.
– He has only called these elections once he was facing legal action.
– As a result DeSantis has reduced the Democratic majority in the US House by a seat during a critical period (the vacancy ensuing from death of Alcee Hastings will in fact be a nine month one).
– DeSantis has reduced the Democratic and minority representation in the State Legislature by THREE SEATS for 57 of 60 days of the upcoming session due to his actions.
To be perfectly honest, I am not sure why the Federal Voting Rights Act has never covered the potential for minority representation to be diluted by these sorts of means at the state level. Perhaps something that mandates equal treatment of vacancies to legislative bodies must be added to HR 1?
Anyhow, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz had a well-crafted statement that hits on everything here:
“It took a lawsuit for Gov. DeSantis to do his job in calling for special elections in South Florida. Even then, his actions are severely lacking and insulting to tens of thousands of voters. What he is doing is disenfranchising voters, denying them representation during the upcoming legislative session. He is silencing voters including an untold number of minority voters in South Florida.
“Taking a page from autocrats, DeSantis is stifling the voices of Floridians. He learned about the upcoming vacancies in July and it took him 87 days to call for a special election. Floridians are exhausted by his political games. This is not how a democracy operates, DeSantis must be removed from office next year. Floridians deserve better.”