House redistricting staff has published what could be the final congressional map the chamber considers this year.
Rep. Tom Leek, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, filed an amendment on legislation headed to the House floor. The new language signaled one more change before representatives vote on Florida’s congressional boundaries.
A new map (H 8019) showed what would be the primary cartography in a controversial two-map plan. House officials said the latest cartography primarily includes technical changes. As in a map sent out of committee last week, there’s no North Florida district that spans from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, but there is a minority-performing seat in Duval County.
It’s in this newly reconfigured seat, still labeled as Florida’s 5th Congressional District, that many of the small changes can be found. The new map reaches below Interstate 295 to pick up some areas north of Greenland Road.
The accompanying legislation shows Leek is committed to a plan to present two congressional maps in the final redistricting bill. The just-published map would become the primary.
The map came together in open acknowledgement of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ objections to cartography produced in the Legislature. Specifically, DeSantis has said he would veto any map that contains an “unconstitutional gerrymander.”
DeSantis counsel Ryan Newman on Feb. 18 sent a detailed letter to Rep. Tyler Sirois, chair of the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee, specifically detailing problems the Governor’s Office has with the existing configuration of CD 5.
“The district is not compact and does not otherwise conform to usual political or geographic boundaries,” Newman wrote. “Instead, it appears to be drawn solely to combine separate minority populations from different regions of northern Florida in a less than majority-minority district so that together they may have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.”
The current CD 5 seat is held now by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat. No such district appears on two different maps submitted by Newman on DeSantis’ behalf on the Legislature’s Florida Redistricting website.
There’s also not a similar district on the latest cartography published by House staff. But the primary House map looks significantly different than the last submission from Newman (P 0094).
DeSantis’ latest map, based on a partisan performance analysis by MCI Maps, produces 20 congressional districts where a majority or plurality of voters voted for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, and just eight that voted for Democrat Joe Biden. Trump won the state by three percentage points.
By contrast, the House’s primary map has 18 Trump districts and 10 Biden ones.
Notably, the Florida Constitution’s Fair District amendment forbids drawing maps that favor or disfavor a political party or candidate. The same amendment requires protection of minority communities’ ability to elect a Representative of their choice. The Legislature has maintained that replacing CD 5 with a district that strips North Florida’s Black voters of the ability to control an election outcome would be an unconstitutional diminishment of power.
In fact, while House staff produced a map they believe leaves a Black-performing district in place, the bill also includes a second map (H 8015) that leaves a district closely analogous to Lawson’s seat now. That forces changes to a half dozen neighboring districts, but still results in a map with 18 Trump-favoring jurisdictions.
Of note, the Senate has its own map (S 8060) that it passed in January. That map holds fairly close to the congressional lines in place today. MCI says that produces 16 Trump districts and 12 Biden seats.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat, also refiled amendments taking aim at a shortened statute of limitations for challenging maps in court. She has criticized Republican House leadership’s proposal for a 30-day limit for lawsuits.
One amendment she filed takes all language out and leaves the default four-year timeframe in place. Another compromise amendment would shorten the allowable time to take action to one year from the maps becoming law. She filed similar amendments at the last meeting of the House Redistricting Committee and both failed.
The House plans to debate the congressional map on the floor Thursday
Last updated on March 1, 2022