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Down to the wire, Senators propose last-minute changes to new Senate map

With little time left to shape the Senate district maps for the next decade, five senators submitted amendments on Wednesday in an attempt to enact changes to the newly-drawn Senate redistricting map that is up for a vote today.

Sens. Thad Altman, R-Viera, and Ronda Storms leave the map proposed by Senate Redistricting Chairman Don Gaetz unchanged but alter the numbering systems. Altman's plan would jettison the numbering system that dramatically sprung from a lotto-style lottery and replace it with a numbering system that would begin from left to right on the Panhandle and then number based on the northern most line of each district. Storms, R-Valrico, would use a similar numbering scheme that prohibits any incumbent senators from receiving more than an eight-year term. 

Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith has proposed an amendment that leaves most of the map designed by Gaetz except in three north-central Florida districts and three Palm Beach districts. A Herald/Times analysis shows the map strengthens the odds for Democrats in 2012 by creating 16 solid Democratic seats, compared to the Republican plan of 15, allows for 22 Republican seats and keeps 2 swim districts. His Palm Beach changes increase the minority voting age population of one inland district while slightly decreasing the minorities in two coastal districts.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla proposes the most substantial change with an amendment that attempts to draw a fourth Hispanic district for Miami Dade County. The result is a map that performs better for Democrats than Gaetz's map with 16 solid Democratic seats, 21 solid Republican seats and three swing districts. The change reduces minority voting age population in District 37 by 3.7 percent to 85.7 percent. The district, now held by Sen. Anitere Flores, would also be more competitive for Democrats access.

District 38, now held by Sen. Rene Garcia, would gain in minority voters but most of them would include more Hispanics but also remain a strongly competitive district for Democrats.

In Smith's amendment, the Gainesville-based District 7, increases the voting age population by 1.7 percent to 29.6 percent. The change adds Ocala to the south and removes Green Cove Springs and Lakeside to the east.

In the Daytona Beach-based District 8, the black voting age population drops 1 percent to 20.4 percent but the boundaries change to lose Ocala and gain all of Daytona and Ormond Beach,. The district also no longer splits Daytona Beach. This is a district Democrats are hoping Volusia County chairman Frank Bruno can win to increase Democratic numbers in the Senate.

In District 6 in St. Augustine, black voters are moved from the district now held by Republican Sen. John Thrasher into the Daytona-based district and the district loses Ormond Beach and half of Daytona Beach and gains Lakeside and Green Cove Springs.

-- Darla Cameron and Mary Ellen Klas