House Democrats stage sit-in during congressional map debate

Despite disruption, Republicans help push through DeSantis-drawn map
Florida House sit-in
Posted at 1:06 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 20:13:51-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Democratic lawmakers in the Florida House halted debate on a new congressional map Thursday by staging a sit-in.

WPTV Capitol reporter Forrest Saunders shared video on Twitter of several Black lawmakers sitting on the House floor and singing, "We shall overcome."

While the chanting and singing was taking place, Republicans continued to vote in favor of the congressional map redrawn by Gov. Ron DeSantis after he vetoed the Florida Legislature's previous map.

Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, streamed on Facebook while inside the House chambers, criticizing DeSantis.

"Ron DeSantis is a bully," Nixon said. "Ron DeSantis does not care about Black people. I will not bite my tongue. There is an incessant attack on Black people in the state of Florida."

The map passed by a 68-34 vote.

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls released the following statement about Thursday's sit-in:

"Today a group of Representatives decided to hijack the legislative process, violating House Rules and interfering with the rights of their fellow elected colleagues to debate important legislation before the body.

We saw a group of Florida House members with microphones at their desk, a statewide audience, and an opportunity to vote on behalf of their constituents, and they instead chose to pretend they had to stage a protest to be heard.

House Democrats requested and agreed to 75 minutes of debate time on Congressional maps, and they used the entire time. They did not request any additional time prior to the group’s disruption. 

After offering multiple opportunities to debate the bills in an orderly way, we carried on and completed our Constitutional duty to pass a Congressional map. Ultimately, this group tried to drown out the voices of the other elected Representatives and the 22 million Floridians they represent."

Nixon, along with Rep. Tray McCurdy and Rep. Yvonne Hinson, forced a recess and held the floor with other members of the Democratic caucus for more than an hour.

They were protesting the governor’s map proposal ahead of its final vote, calling the boundaries an attempt to suppress Black representation in the state.

When lawmakers finally returned, the GOP majority pushed through the map despite ongoing objection and chanting.

Afterward, some Republicans likened the protest to the January insurrection.

Hinson said the sit-in was necessary.

“We knew we needed to do something. Voting is our most sacred right. To take that away from us, they’re taking the heart and soul of our state, of our people," Hinson said.

“They’re obstructing the Democratic process They’re essentially holding the chamber hostage," said Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers. "And, by extension, they’re holding my constituents and citizens all around the state hostage and they’re preventing us from conducting business on their behalf here in this chamber.”

The special session came about after DeSantis rejected what the legislature offered earlier this year. He said their versions contained racial gerrymanders.

Analysts said the new lines cut the state’s minority districts from four to two and could allow Republicans to pick up four more seats.

The map now heads to DeSantis, who is expected to approve it.