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Maps are starting to emerge as proposed fixes to Florida's flawed maps

Plaintiffs remedial mapThe Florida House has proposed a map with minor fixes aimed at repairing the broken congressional redistricting map.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has submitted his own proposal to repair the map. State Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, and his aide have drawn map also aimed at fixing the flaws. 

And the group of left-leaning voting groups who filed the lawsuit and successfully persuaded a judge to throw out two of the state's 27 districts offer a detailed new map. It includes a new east-west District 5, which is now held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, that they say will increase the opportunities for minorities to elect a candidate in Central Florida.

The House and Senate redistricting committees, both dominated by Republicans, will decide which of the proposed maps to adopt at meetings tomorrow. The big question: how vast will the changes be to the controversial 10-county district held by Brown.  House remdial map 9057

Map 1: Plaintiff's proposed fix; Map 2: House proposed new map

The House and Soto make minor changes to Brown's district and Soto's map makes two other districts, those held by Republican Reps. Dan Webster of Winter Garden and John Mica of Orlando, equally split between Democrats and Republicans.

Galvano's also makes minor changes, preserving most of the meandering district but taking out the black Democrats added to it in an effort to bleach neighboring districts to favor Webster and Mica.

But the proposal by the League of Women Voters and Florida Common Cause makes significant changes to the North Florida-based districts, specifically creating an east-west district that stretches across the top of the state from Duval to Gadsden counties and designed to elect a minority candidate.

"Slight alterations will not correct the constitutional defects Judge Lewis identified,'' the plaintiffs wrote in a letter to House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President  Don Gaetz on Thursday. "The snaking north-south configuration of CD 5 should be abandoned."

They concluded that "slightly modifying a north-south configuration that was the product of a tainted redistricting process cannot match these benefits and does a disservice to the voters who have waited too long for constitutional districts." 

Their proposed alternative "demonstrates that an east-west configuration of CD 5 can produce a map that complies with the Florida Constitution’s mandates in a manner that cannot be matched by any variation of the snaking north-south district that has been a hallmark of the Legislature’s proposals to date,'' they wrote.

"Most importantly, an east-west configuration allows for the creation of a district with enhanced minority voting strength in Central Florida, while preserving African Americans’ ability to elect in CD 5.  The Coalition’s proposal therefore ensures that minorities will have a greater voice in Florida’s politics than under a slightly modified north-south district that continues to wind through Northeastern and Central Florida."

Even before the plaintiffs proposal hit their desks, however, lawyers for the Republcan legislative leaders were prepared to attack the east-west district. 

“This to me looks like a surfboard attacked by jaws in any number of places,” said George Meros, attorney for the House.

He noted that the NAACP has opposed the east-west configuration and projected a slide of the map on a video screen in the committee room. It showed how the proposed east-west district, if stretched on its side, would reach from Naples to Cuba. The slide drew laughter from Republicans on the committee. 

He said it will diminish the ability of blacks to elect a candidate of their choice and is not justified by the state's Fair Districts law.

“There is no question that it makes it less likely for an African American candidate to win in an east-west configuration,'' Meros said.

The proposed district is 206 miles long, Meros said, longer than 140 miles of the current
District 5. 

Galvano's proposal removes Sanford from the District 5 and attempts to make the district more visually and mathematically compact by adhering to county and geographical boundaries like the St John’s River. It reduces the black voting age population from 50 percent to 48 percent and, Galvano said in a memo to Senators, offers "the opportunity to elect a candidate of its choice."  Download MEMO re Amendment to SB 2A 2014 08 07

His map also removes the appendage from District 10, Webster's district, and then makes changes to five other districts in what he says is an attempt "to improve the visual compactness of districts, 6, 7, 9, 11 and 17."