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Group of Florida Democrats protest redistricting map, halt session

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the second-to-last day of Florida’s redistricting special session, a group of the state’s Democratic House members staged a protest, pushing the current phase of the session into an informal recess as lawmakers weighed the maps on the House floor.

The protest broke out just before noon while the House debated the maps. State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, a Democrat who represents parts of Alachua and Marion counties, had the floor. She continued to talk after her time expired and the mic was cut.

Video from the session shows several other representatives stand and start shouting while holding signs. A recess was then called as they made their way to the front of the chamber.

Another video angle from inside the chamber shows at least four representatives at the front holding signs and one sitting on the floor. Video then cuts out and goes to a slate.

A tweet from Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for Florida governor, identified the House members involved in the protest as Rep. Hinson, Rep. Travaris McCurdy, Rep. Tracie Davis and Rep. Felicia Robinson.

“This is what good trouble looks like,” Crist said, praising them and other House Democrats for “refusing to be silenced.”

The Florida Senate has already voted to approve the congressional redistricting maps drawn by staff of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The map has drawn the protest and criticism of voting rights advocates and Florida Democrats for minimizing the political voices of the state’s Black residents.

In Wednesday’s review phase in the Senate, the maps drawn by the governor’s staff were accepted by the chamber on partisan voting lines. Previous commentary by legislative leaders in both the state House and Senate had said they would not be redrawing the maps on their own, deferring to the governor’s planned maps instead.

DeSantis had previously vetoed the versions approved by the legislature during the main 2022 legislative session, which ended in March. After the veto, DeSantis announced his call for a special session to deal with the maps.

As the session started, he amended the session’s agenda to also go after Disney for its special tax status in Florida. The bills focused on the media company were already passed in the Senate as well.

It was clear during the Senate debate on Wednesday that lawmakers were prepared for the new maps to be challenged in court, adding an amendment to fund $1 million in litigation for legal contests of the redrawn districts.

A final vote is expected in the House Thursday. The version under review has sparked heated debate, with how multiple districts currently represented by Black Democratic lawmakers are dismantled or reshaped, with expected partisan advantages for the state’s Republicans.

Now temporarily paused, the session has been slightly delayed, though with the Republican majority in both chambers of the legislature, the bills will likely still pass, with or without Democratic lawmakers’ presence.

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