Now that Florida’s Supreme Court has signed off on a Congressional map, the voters of Florida can finally know what districts they live in. For voters in North Florida, this means dramatic changes to their current political situation. Many voters west of Walton County will find themselves either in a safe Republican seat that stretches from Bay to Marion, the Florida 2nd; or a safe Democratic seat that goes from Gadsden to Jacksonville, the Florida 5th. The new 5th district is designed to be an African-American district, replacing the Jacksonville to Orlando configuration of the past.
If you were waiting for more evidence that an independent or bipartisan redistricting commission is needed in Florida, the last several months have proved it. Florida continues to have no finalized Congressional or State Senate maps, leaving local election officials hamstrung as they gear up for a Presidential Primary just around the corner. The Congressional Maps were just approved by the Supreme Court last week, however, a federal lawsuit from some parties may be brewing. Meanwhile the trial on the Senate maps has yet to even begin.
A good deal has happened in the ongoing redistricting saga in the last several days. The State Senate passed its proposed districts with a controversial amendment attached. The House redistricting committee has passed their own amended version of the map, and the coalition plaintiffs have now put forward three proposals. This article will go over each development.
The coalition plaintiffs suing the Florida Legislature over the 2012 State Senate boundaries have opted to release one proposal they have for the Senate lines. The word from many is that the coalition may release another map, one that incorporates 2012 and 2014 primary data, which is an issue I have discussed on this blog. The map has several issues and it is definitely this writer’s opinion that some adjustments need to be made. Let’s take a look at some key details.
One major point of contention during the first week of the Special Session to redraw the Florida Senate seats has been the Tampa Bay area.
Many spectators expected the Florida Senate to abandon efforts to cross the Tampa Bay from Pinellas to Hillsborough County, which they did in two districts in 2012.
On October 14th, just a few days before special session begins, the state legislature released six proposed base maps for its state Senate lines. Each map is different in some areas and similar in others. From these six proposals the Legislature must try to come to an agreement on one final map; something they failed to do with the congressional districts during the summer. Due to the large number of changes across the six distinct maps, only one Senate district is guaranteed to see no change from its current makeup, Senate District 3. A vast majority of voters are going to see their Senate districts change.
When Judge Terry Lewis convenes his redistricting trial later this month, there will be 7 different maps to examine — three from the Legislature and four from the plaintiffs. This article will cover some key differences in the maps being proposed. The specific focus is going to be on the maps submitted by the plaintiffs and how they compare to the Legislature’s proposals.
The Florida Legislature released its base map heading into next week’s Special Session on redistricting. The map makes changes to 22 of the 27 districts. Some changes are small while others are very large. Many voters will find themselves in brand new districts if the base map becomes law. The map below shows areas that will change districts and those that will remain the same.
In today’s Tallahassee Democrat article, DNC member Jon Ausman and myself advocated for keeping Leon County whole in any new congressional district drawn in next month’s Special Session. The Supreme Court ordered that the current 5th Congressional district, stretching from Jacksonville to Orlando, be eliminated and a new east-west district be drawn. The court cited the proposed districts by the League of Women Voters as an acceptable option. The League’s proposed map splits Leon County between two districts, thus diluting the power of the County and Tallahassee.
In Florida, a great deal of attention has been paid to the issue of gerrymandering during the 2012 redistricting process. The state has been subjected to lawsuits over its Congressional and Legislative Maps by a coalition arguing the legislature violated new redistricting rules passed by voters in 2010. A lawsuit in the summer of 2014 forced the legislature to alter several of its congressional districts. The changes were small, but the lawsuit opened up a much larger can of worms. Through the lawsuit, the consulting firm, Data Targeting, which has worked with the legislature and Florida GOP, was forced to turn over 500 pages in emails and documents detailing its involvement in the redistricting process of 2012.