Hours ahead of what’s likely the final meeting of the House Redistricting Committee, cartographers for the chamber released two draft congressional maps.
One map (H 8017) would effectively eliminate a north Florida district now represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson. Up until now, some configuration of that map has appeared on every redistricting draft produced by the Legislature. Staff has maintained the Black-performing seat to avoid diminishing minority communities’ ability to elect a Representative of their choice. But it did not appear on two public submissions from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office, which has labeled the district an “unconstitutional gerrymander” despite being implemented by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015.
Unlike the Governor’s submissions, this House draft attempts to produce a Jacksonville-area minority seat. On the map, a proposed Florida’s 5th Congressional District would be contained entirely within Duval County, with Blacks making up 35.27% of its voting-age population.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a memo to House members this map will hopefully “addresses concerns about the shape of Congressional District 5 by creating a more compact North Florida district that should enable minority voters to elect the candidates of their choice.”
“We believe this solution creates a singular exception to the diminishment standard,” he wrote.
Of note, the map also creates a draft of Florida’s 10th Congressional District, a reshape of Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings’ current Orlando area seat. The proposed district boasts a 28.8% Black voting age population, higher than the baseline CD 10 district in place now.
Legislation that will accompany the map to the committee (HB 7503) attempts to present this map as a primary option. But should the maps undergo court review and judges throw out the Duval-only configuration for Florida’s 5th Congressional District, then the implementing bill as written presents another as an automatic substitute the courts should enact.
That’s a novel legal strategy — and a strategic one — considering the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 threw out a map drawn by the Florida Legislature and replaced it with one crafted by plaintiffs who brought an action against the state.
“This secondary map is one the Legislature knows is legally compliant under current law and keeps the previously- proposed configuration of District 5,” Sprowls wrote.
The fallback draft map (H 8015) bears a closer resemblance to the cartography advanced by the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee last week. But there are significant changes too, including a more compact Florida’s 3rd Congressional District that closely mirrors the jurisdiction represented today by Republican U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack.
House staff produces a similar CD 10 on both draft maps. They also reconfigure Florida’s 7th Congressional District, represented by retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, to sit east of the Orlando area and extend to the Atlantic coast. Effectively, the maps preserve Demings’ Democratic district but significantly alter the makeup of Murphy’s.
According to an MCI Maps partisan performance analyses, both new maps produce 18 districts where a majority or plurality voted for Republican Donald Trump in the last presidential election, and 10 districts won by Democrat Joe Biden. The preferred map, notably has three districts where Trump won, but with less than 50% of the vote. That includes the new CD 7 being vacated by Murphy, the open Florida’s 15th Congressional District in east Hillsborough and a new iteration of Florida’s 27th Congressional District, held now by Republican U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar.
Notably, both new House maps leave a Pinellas County-only Florida’s 13th Congressional District. That’s different from drafts from the Governor’s Office that completely remade Tampa Bay and disposed of Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist’s district to combine the Democratic areas of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties into a single seat.
H 2017 takes the approach in the Lakeland area of building a new Florida’s 16th Congressional District dominated by Polk County. Both maps push a district analogous to Florida’s 14th Congressional District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, further south and east while effectively putting an open seat in north Hillsborough and south Pasco counties.
The House and Senate must come together before the end of Session on approving a map of Florida’s now 28 congressional districts. The measure approved by the Legislature will go to the Governor, which he can sign, veto or allow to become law without his signature.
The two drafts appear identical south of Polk County, with no significant differences from the Senate’s congressional map.
The House Redistricting Committee meets Friday from noon to 5 p.m.