Rights Behind the Headlines: Gov. DeSantis’ Culture War on Black Floridians

Rights Behind the Headlines is a blog series from the ACLU of Florida that dispels misinformation and gives Floridians critical information about the most pressing issues facing our state. Read the full series at aclufl.org/rightsbehindtheheadlines

We’re addressing the impacts of Gov. DeSantis’ assaults on the voting rights of Black Floridians during his term as Florida’s governor.

Why does Ron DeSantis work against Black people? A better question, perhaps, is how he has done it.

Ron DeSantis has systematically made it more difficult for Black Floridians to participate in their government since he was inaugurated the 46th Governor of Florida on January 8, 2019.

DeSantis did this, first, by dismantling Florida’s Voting Restoration Amendment (Amd 4).

The dismantling of Amendment 4 was primarily facilitated by the re-criminalization of the same people with past felony convictions that Amendment 4 was intended to help, with Gov. DeSantis’ implementation of Senate Bill 7066 creating a pay-to-vote system in 2019. Since then, the governor created an elections police force in 2022, arresting several people who believed they were eligible to vote for supposed election crimes, despite a lack of any indication that the individuals intended to violate any law.

This election police did succeed in chilling people who paid their debt to society from participating in their own government.

The ACLU of Florida along with other organizations has litigated against the state for its deceptive practices that effectively bar people with past convictions from voting, an affront to Florida voters who chose to restore the franchise to them.

Gov. DeSantis further reduced the power of Black Floridians’ voices in Congress by his usurping of the state’s 2020 redistricting process, during which he single-handedly dismantled a North Florida Congressional district intended for Black voter access, a district originally drawn to comply with the 2010 Fair Districts Amendment to the state’s constitution.

The district in question, then represented by regional native Al Lawson, was also drawn in a region of the state that is home to many of the Black descendants of Florida’s former slave population.

Following the 2020 census, the ACLU of Florida has litigated or otherwise sought to address racial gerrymandering practices in numerous municipalities across the state. Most recently our work was successful in getting the Jacksonville City Council to accept newly drawn district maps that fairly represent the city's Black population.

The governor has also censored anti-racist perspectives of American history in Florida’s K-12 social studies curriculum, namely with his so-called “Stop W.O.K.E.” law. A proposed expansion of the law to Florida public colleges and universities is being challenged by the ACLU among others for violating the free speech and equal protection of the First and 14th Amendments for students and educators alike.

Time and time again over the last four and half years of the tenure of Gov. Ron DeSantis, he has demonstrated indifference to improving the lives of not just Black Floridians, but the well-being of all Floridians.

We deserve better.