Fla. Republican Senate Leaders Release 1st Redistricting Maps

They're lines on a map that could be the battle lines of Florida's elections. Some weave up and down, others left and right, but every district in the plan unveiled by Senate republicans is drawn that way for a reason.

By clumping minority voters into their own districts, republicans can be more competitive in neighboring areas. That's allowed them to build overwhelming majorities, but Ben Wilcox with the League of Women Voters argues two new voter-mandated amendments are changing the mapmaking rules.

"Sixty-three percent of the voters passed amendments 5 and 6, and it's clearly their intent not to see districts drawn like they've been drawn in the past, that have these bizarre shapes," Wilcox said. "They want to see districts drawn to serve the voters, not serve the politicians."

The amendments say districts have to be drawn as compactly as possible, but look at this proposed congressional district that stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando, almost identical to the one we have now.

Republicans contend it has to be drawn like that to protect minority voting power. On that, many minority democrats agree even though a more compact map could help the party win more elections overall.

Democratic Rep. Alan Williams is on the redistricting committee in the House.

"I think it's going to be a very emotional time," he said. "It's going to be one where there's going to be a lot of debate back and forth, but that's what this process is all about."

It's a process that begins in earnest in January. From there, lawmakers have two months to pass a final product. At that point, both republicans and democrats say it's inevitable the maps will wind up in the courts.

Florida is picking up two new congressional seats in response to a population growth. Under the proposal released Tuesday, both would be in central Florida and one of them would have a majority of Hispanic voters.

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