Watchdog groups are urging House redistricting leaders to reconsider a plan to significantly reconfigure Rep. Val Demings’ district.
The Fair Districts Coalition and the NAACP separately sent letters to Rep. Tom Leek, Chair of the House Redistricting Committee, on the matter. Both called into question cartography that significantly changes the shape of districts in the Orlando region.
Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida Conference, said a draft map (H 8011) could violate Florida’s Constitution The letter raised concerns about a significant alteration of Florida’s 10th Congressional District.
“It will eliminate the ability of Black voters in Central Florida to elect a Representative of their choice,” the letter reads. “This plan raises significant legal concerns regarding how it departs from benchmark CD 10.”
The current map was put in place by the Florida Supreme Court after Justices ruled the Legislature’s map, produced in 2012, favored Republicans and had been tainted through planted maps that influenced the process.
After the maps went into place, Demings, an Orlando Democrat and a Black woman, won a seat in Congress representing CD 10 in 2016. She’s won each subsequent election, but won’t seek re-election this year because she’s challenging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for his Senate seat.
The House’s proposal for a congressional map, which the Redistricting Committee expects to vote on soon, would largely combine the seat with turf from Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which is represented by retiring U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat. (Update: A previous version of this story said the committee would meet Thursday, but that meeting has been postponed)
Critics have questioned the move, which would likely reduce the number of Orlando area Democrat-leaning seats from three to two.
House members have largely avoided partisan make-up for districts, in fear of violating other provisions of the Fair Districts amendment to Florida’s Constitution. But the protection of minority access is also in that amendment. Therefore, House staff has done political performance analyses on minority access seats.
The House has deemed that CD 10 is no longer a minority-performing seat, thanks in part to consistent diminishing Black turnout over several election cycles. In the proposed CD 10 on the House map, Blacks make up 25.32% of the voting age population, compared to 26.7% under the existing lines.
The Fair Districts Coalition, which includes groups who successfully sued over the Legislature’s map a decade ago, raises the same concerns about eliminating the ability to elect a Black Representative. The current House plan “contains serious legal infirmities regarding the radical way it departs from benchmark CD 10,” reads a letter from the coalition executive committee.
It specifically mentions the fact that the Senate map retains a make-up similar to what voters in Central Florida enjoy now.
“The Senate rightly considers CD 10 to be protected by Tier 1 of the Fair Districts provisions because it has elected a Black member since its creation and because of a functional analysis, performed according to Florida Supreme Court precedent,” the letter states. “We urge you to follow the Senate’s more legally compliant configuration.”
Notably, both groups praise House leadership for resisting outside pressure from Gov. Ron DeSantis to eliminate a North Florida-spanning configuration for a different Black-performing district. Florida’s 5th Congressional District is represented by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat. DeSantis’ office labels the Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville seat an “unconstitutional gerrymander.” But to date, analogous configurations appear in all draft maps produced by the Legislature.
“Thank you for standing firm on this issue,” reads Nweze’s letter.