Proposed map impacts region, places local counties in other districts

Amber Vann | Suwanne Democrat | 08/20/2015

The favored map currently under consideration by Florida lawmakers to redraw the state’s U.S. Congressional districts will pull Suwannee and Lafayette counties into an expanded District 2 while incorporating Hamilton County into a newly redrawn east-west District 5. The proposed map would remove the three counties from District 3, currently represented by Republican Ted Yoho.

Florida legislators have been in a second special session since Aug. 10 to redraw portions of the Congressional map after the state Supreme Court ruled eight of Florida’s 27 districts were unconstitutional on the basis of Republican gerrymandering. The session will wrap up with a decision on the redistricting this Friday. If the legislature can agree to a fairer map to political parties and geographic and ethnic groups, it will go on for approval or disapproval in lower state courts.

Under the state Senate’s proposed new map, Suwannee and Lafayette would be represented by current District 2 seat-holder Gwen Graham, a Democrat from Tallahassee. The three counties’ former District 3 would be cut down to a smaller, centralized area of North Central Florida under Republican Ted Yoho.

Hamilton County would be represented by District 5 Democrat Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, who filed a federal lawsuit last week against the state and its legislators for the Florida Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling. According to Brown’s complaint, the Senate’s new map proposal would “dilute the voting strength of African-Americans” and the redrawing “carries with it the very real and imminent possibility of Congresswoman Brown’s constituents being deprived of the ability to elect a representative of their choice.”

District 5 is currently a minority-majority district where minorities stand a greater chance of being elected, an effort protected under the federal Voting Rights Act. As it stands, District 5 snakes north and south from Jacksonville to Orlando, but Florida legislators are favoring a state Senate proposal to compact District 5 east to west from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.

Florida House Representative Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City) isn’t supportive of the proposed map, either. She said she won’t be able to support the map without “substantial changes that would restore meaningful congressional representation to the constituents of Florida House District 10,” which Porter represents.

“My office has received numerous emails and calls regarding the proposed base map and not one of those contacts have been in support of it,” said Porter. “In fact, all calls and emails have put forth relevant arguments against it. It is my opinion that the citizens of North Florida would be adversely affected and disenfranchised if the map is adopted. Therefore, unless there are some significant positive changes proposed, I will be voting no on HB 1B.”

The Florida House of Representatives approved the new map on Tuesday, August 18, by a 76-35 vote. The House’s map differs from the Senate’s version in small South Florida districts, but both versions displace District 3. The House and the Senate have until Friday to agree on a final map.

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