Map Expert: Minor Improvement For Dems Under Initial Borders

Aug 6, 2015

The starting bid in the state Legislature's third effort to redraw Florida's congressional districts.
Credit FL Senate District Explorer

The state Legislature’s first draft of Florida’s new congressional map is out, and it could lead to a shake-up in Tallahassee’s congressional representation.

Over the last few weeks, Florida House and Senate staffers have being developing a map behind closed doors that will serve as the starting point for next week’s special session.  And now that their draft is public, it’s drawing very different reactions from two congresswomen who have seen their constituencies drastically changed. 

Rep. Gwen Graham’s (D-FL2) office released a bland statement reiterating her focus on the job at hand: “bringing the North Florida way to Washington.”  Meanwhile fellow Rep. Corinne Brown (D-FL5) filed a lawsuit Thursday morning challenging the maps in court. 

But Matt Isbell, a Democratic leaning consultant with expertise in mapping and geography says Brown probably shouldn’t worry.

“I’m sure she’s not going to like the changes because she likes having Gainesville in her district, but she electorally should be fine,” Isbell says.

Gwen Graham is a different story.  Isbell says under the current map it would be nearly impossible for Graham to retain her seat.  But he’s doubtful the map will move forward unchanged because of the way it cuts up Tallahassee.  Right now, an appendage from district two pulls in southern and western portions of the city—possibly resulting in what’s known as a tier two violation of the state’s Fair Districts Amendment.

“I think that it is a tier two violation regarding compactness,” Isbell says, “and I think that that’s where the challenge is going to come from.”

“Hopefully it will come in the Legislature itself,” he continues, “they can amend it and they can change it.  That’s why they released the base map first, so changes can be proposed, and hopefully we will end up with a fix to that, because I think it does violate tier two.”

In all, Isbell projects a modest shift to the left for Florida’s congressional delegation if the borders stay close to their current alignment.  He suggests Democrats may net one extra seat under the proposal.  The shuffle begins Monday, when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for their second of three overtime periods in the 2015 session.