BY BRANDON LARRABEE
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – The Legislature on Wednesday released six draft maps of Senate districts for a special session that begins next week, opening up the next phase of a long-running battle over Florida’s congressional and legislative lines.
The “base maps” drawn by legislative aides were released days before lawmakers return to Tallahassee for a three-week session to approve new districts for the 40 Senate seats.
The Legislature agreed to craft new lines as part of a deal to settle a lawsuit challenging the existing districts under the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010.
House and Senate aides took two different approaches to drawing the lines: one that emphasized keeping counties whole and trying as much as possible to keep districts contained within one county; and another that aimed to prevent the number of times each county was split. Staff members drew three maps following each of those approaches.
Not much effect
The new proposals do not seem likely to dramatically alter the balance of power in the Senate, which Republicans now control with a 26-14 majority.
Currently, there are 22 districts that were carried by both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 and GOP Gov. Rick Scott in 2010; 15 that went for both Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 and Alex Sink, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, in 2010; and three more that swung between the two parties.
On the new maps, the number of districts that were carried by both GOP candidates range from 19 to 22, and both Democrats carried 16 districts in all but one of the maps. In the outlier, 15 districts voted for both Obama and Sink.