The Florida Senate is looking to waste no time moving forward with the redistricting process.
The two major subcommittees crafting legislative and congressional lines will meet Monday, the day before the 2022 Legislative Session begins, to discuss a third round of drafts produced by Senate staff. Then the full Senate Redistricting Committee meets Thursday to discuss the official bills sponsored by Sen. Ray Rodrigues that will house the final maps.
Meanwhile, the Florida House will hold subcommittee meetings Tuesday, but a timetable is not yet clear on final approval. That means the fate of Florida’s congressional boundaries could remain cloudy for some time.
But first on the docket will be a round of scrutiny on the Senate process.
Staff for the Senate Reapportionment Committee last week released a fresh round of four draft Senate maps (S 8044, S 8046, S 8048, S 8050) and four draft congressional plans (S 8036, S 8038, S 8040, S 8042). Those maps indicate staff has, for the most part, settled on the boundaries for most districts. But senators plotting both Florida’s 40 Senate districts and now 28 congressional districts still have a few key decisions to make.
Notably, Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, submitted Friday an alternative draft congressional proposal map (S 8052), the first to come from a Senator. The map doesn’t differ from most staff proposals except in its plan for Tampa Bay.
While national media has paid close attention to congressional proposals, the maps that will impact the future of the Florida Senate itself will be the legislative maps. Here, staff led by Jay Ferrin have settled on sweeping directions for taking lines, but there remain a few key decisions, including some notable ones in high-density South Florida.
About a quarter of Florida’s Senate districts under all four Senate proposals will be either majority-minority districts or districts where minority communities can effectively elect a candidate of their choice. In the Senate maps, there are five districts controlled by Black voters and five controlled by Hispanic voters.
“As with the plans previously workshopped, a functional analysis of the minority districts in each plan confirms that they do not diminish the ability for racial and language minorities to elect candidates of their choice,” reads a staff presentation released ahead of the Monday meeting.
According to an analysis of partisan performance by MCI Maps’ Matt Isbell, each map produced the same number of districts won by Donald Trump or by Joe Biden. They show 23 Trump-leaning districts and 17 Biden-favoring jurisdictions.
Most of the differences between the maps in the most recent round of drafts are technical. Some choices remain, like whether the proposed District 22 should extend to south of Lake Kissimmee or if the most easterly portions should be part of Senate District 26.
There are also two different visions about where many of the Glades communities in South Florida belong: in Senate District 29 with communities to the north like Jupiter, or in Senate District 31 with communities to the east like Delray Beach.
But the most attention will surely center on congressional maps. If voters performed the same as in 2020, Florida would end up with 16 Trump districts and 12 Biden districts under the Senate proposals. Right now, Florida already boasts 16 Republican members of Congress while Democrats hold 11 seats, so that means the addition of a new member to the delegation may benefit Democrats despite Republicans controlling the Legislature.
As for geographic choices still to be made, 23 of the districts proposed in staff maps are identical, but there are key differences in the remaining five that may spur discussion Monday, even if they don’t change party makeup. Senators will need to decide if they prefer maps that leave Sumter County, where most of The Villages is located, in a single congressional district or if south Sumter belongs in a district with the Clermont area in south Lake County.
But unlike one House proposal for congressional maps, none of the Senate Democrats seeks out major changes to Florida’s 7th Congressional District, and that hasn’t changed since Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced she would not seek another term. One of the two House drafts all but erases her district in a map that would likely generate gains for Republicans.
The lower-case-c conservative maps confirm the primary goal of Senate proposals appears to be avoiding the fate of maps produced by the Legislature in 2010, namely the fact Senate and congressional maps were thrown out in court and replaced by maps not drawn by the Legislature.
As for the Rouson map, it appears to pursue a concern he raised in a prior meeting about the changes proposed in maps of Tampa Bay. Right now, no congressional districts span both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, but Senate drafts have imagined shifting the 14th Congressional District westward.
Rouson’s map holds firm to keeping CD 14 entirely in Hillsborough and does so by having the 15th Congressional District pick up voters in Pasco County to the north rather than pulling many from Central Hillsborough. He also keeps the major city of Tampa whole.
But of note, this map looks much like one submitted by an ACLU staffer, Nicholas Warren, who inspired a missive from Senate leadership first reported by the Miami Herald. Warren had not mentioned his employment with the ACLU when he spoke at a subcommittee meeting and put in his own drafts of how Tampa Bay could be divided.
At the time, Florida Politics originally described Warren as a “cartography-smitten gadfly.” Then, Senate President Wilton Simpson’s office quickly reached out and noted Warren’s biography listed his job with the ACLU and work at the Florida Supreme Court when the maps of the last decade were tossed by the courts.
The Senate has preemptively pushed back on any communications that could be seen as undue influence, even sending a letter to the Herald about whether its Tallahassee Bureau Chief’s reporting techniques were paving the way for future litigation.
Rodrigues ahead of committee meetings notably stressed it is likely someone will bring a legal challenge to redistricting proposals, regardless of the integrity of the process. The goal is for the maps sent to the Governor to survive litigation.
In addition to the Senate meetings this week, the House’s legislative and congressional subcommittees on redistricting will also hold meetings. Both chambers will approve maps for their own membership. But the chambers will have to come together before the end of the Session to agree on a congressional map.