The shape of things to come: For Palm Beach County districts, horizontal may be the new vertical

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 08/10/2015

The shapes of three of Palm Beach County’s four congressional districts would change dramatically under the first proposal Florida legislators will consider when they convene today for a third attempt at drawing congressional boundaries that meet court approval.

But U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings, all Democrats, are not alone. Twenty-two of Florida’s 27 congressional districts would change under the initial draft of the map, drawn by legislative staff members in near-seclusion, released by the Legislature Wednesday.

Changes to the base map undoubtedly will be offered during the 12-day special session called to comply with anorder of the Florida Supreme Court.

And one congresswoman, Democrat Corrine Brown, of Jacksonville, already has gone to federal court to try to block the wholesale realigning of her District 5 from a Jacksonville-Orlando orientation to one that stretches from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee.

But legislative leaders have made it clear that any changes to the plan will have to be thoroughly justified to make sure that the final map doesn’t violate one of the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments approved by voters in 2010.

Justices last month ruled legislators violated Fair Districts in their first two attempts at map-making and ordered them back to the drawing board.

Although the new, staff-drawn map would change the configuration of Frankel’s and Deutch’s districts from vertical to horizontal, and would put Frankel’s home in Deutch’s district, they issued a joint statement Friday saying each planned to run for re-election but will not duke it out in the same district.

“We both believe in the concept of Fair Districts and that congressional districts should be drawn to serve the people, not for the pleasure of elected officials. … We are friends, have great respect for one another and both of us are fully committed to not running against each other,” their statement read.

Frankel also told The Palm Beach Post: “Look, I don’t know what the maps will be. But these districts do not belong to members. They belong to citizens. And they’re the ones who should say what works for them.”

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