A map has passed in the Florida Senate that will likely govern the chamber’s future for the next decade.
The Senate voted 34-3 to approve a new map (S 8058) for the state’s 40 Senate districts. Outside analysts predict the map most likely will leave the upper chamber of the Florida Legislature in GOP control after the November elections. But the maps produce a messy path between here and Election Day.
Sen. Ray Rodrigues, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chair, said the process this year has focused on working within the confines of the Florida Constitution’s Fair Districts amendment, the federal Voting Rights Act, and court precedent.
Senate President Wilton Simpson heaped praise on Rodrigues and committee staff who drafted the final map.
“You had a lot of integrity and continually produced a great product we’re going to vote on here for today,” he said.
The Senate hopes to avoid the legal pitfalls of the 2012 redistricting process, which took place shortly after voters approved the Fair Districts amendment. Courts found the 2012 map unfairly favored Republican incumbents. The Florida Legislature was ordered back into a Special Session, but there, lawmakers failed to agree on a legal map. Ultimately, Judge George Reynolds instated the current Senate map before the 2016 elections.
Rodrigues said this go-around, he tried to adhere closely to guidelines laid out in prior litigation.
“We all understand that the court tossed the last state Senate map that was done through redistricting,” he said. “But even before it was tossed because it was found that there was a shadow organization led by partisans to influence it, the court had expressed concern and invalidated parts of the Senate map at the very beginning. That helped guide the decisions we made as we put this map together.”
A performance analysis by MCI Maps shows the map includes 22 Senate districts where voters favored Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and 18 that went for Democrat Joe Biden. That’s similar to the existing Senate map. Notably, Senate Republicans have outperformed Trump, and the 40-member chamber includes 24 Republicans today.
Now, the Senate has passed a map that puts several of its own members in the same districts, the result of population growth and a process that Rodrigues proclaimed took no account of where any lawmakers now live.
Sens. Dennis Baxley of Ocala and Keith Perry of Gainesville, both Republicans, now live in proposed Senate District 9. Sens. Gary Farmer and Jason Pizzo, both Democrats, live in the proposed Senate District 37
The new map also places Sens. Lori Berman and Tina Polsky, both Democrats, in Senate District 26, but Polsky already said she intends to run in the open Senate District 30.
And Democratic Minority Leader Lauren Book lives in the proposed Senate District 32 with Rosalind Osgood, the Democratic nominee for a special election to fill a vacancy in existing Senate District 33. Osgood sat in the galley as the map was passed with Book’s support.
All three votes against the map came from Democrats, who raised concerns about whether the map properly guarantees Black and Hispanic representation in the Senate.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, filed an amendment rejected in committee and withdrawn from consideration on the floor that would have produced a more geographically expansive Senate District 5. She also noted the percentage of Black voters in the approved map is lower than in her amendment.
“If we can have an area of a map that can be better drawn, certainly that’s drawn constitutionally, that can give people an opportunity to live better, to have an economic growth opportunity, and not reduce the [Black] percentage to 41% when it can be 42%, I think we could have taken more time and done that,” she said.
Farmer reiterated concerns about Black representation. He noted two votes missing in the tally on Thursday represent Black districts. Former Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, resigned his seat to run for Congress, and Gov. Ron DeSantis did not call a special election in time for a successor to win election in the heavily Democratic seat; Osgood still faces a general election opponent. Meanwhile, Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, is out recovering from COVID-19.
And Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat, said Hispanic growth in Central Florida constituted a new minority access district there. Instead, the maps produce the same number of Hispanic districts as exist today.
Rodrigues said he believed the maps would ultimately withstand any judicial scrutiny.
State legislative maps produced by the Legislature, unlike a congressional map produced by the body, cannot be vetoed by the Governor. The House and Senate must agree on the maps, but traditionally the chambers draft their own cartography and follow one another’s lead, the 2015 disagreements notwithstanding.