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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clemens offers a map that doesn't cross Tampa Bay, Galvano quickly rejects it



After a daylong hearing, Senate redistricting chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, filed a proposal late Wednesday to serve as the Senate's starting point and immediately raised questions about whether the map protects incumbents and Republicans. 

Galvano rejected the map offered by Sen. Jeff Clemens at a meeting of the Senate Reapportionment Committee meeting on Wednesday and offered an alternative that appears to pit fewer incumbents into districts than previous plans.

 Clemens' plan refrained from linking communities in Hillsborough and Pinellas County in order to create an African-American majority seat, even though that configuration was rejected by the court when the legislature drew it in a congressional map.

Clemens, D-Lake Worth, became the second Democrat to submit a complete map as part of the Senate redistricting process, introducing a map he says follows the anti-gerrymandering amendments to the state constitution while also refraining from “packing” minorities in districts.

Clemens said that a “landmark” feature of his map is that it is the only one submitted so far that does not “jump Tampa Bay.”

All six of the proposed draft maps drawn by the legislature’s staff links the communities of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties by crossing Tampa Bay and Galvano's proposal appears to match the 

The Florida Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to reject that configuration when it rejected the congressional map, concluding it was done to protect Republican incumbents.

But the House and Senate staff said they needed to draw the district across the bay to preserve the voting strength of African American voters to elect a candidate of their choice, as required under the state’s Fair District guidelines and the federal Voting Rights Act.

Clemens argued Wednesday those maps use a false premise – the black voting age population, instead of the performance of the districts – as determined by the election data in previous elections.

He cited a Florida Supreme Court opinion that concluded that preserving minority voting strength —“does not require maintaining the same population percentages” but instead “is satisfied if minority voters retain the ability to elect their preferred candidates.”

Clemens presented his map to the Senate Reapportionment Committee on Wednesday and urged his GOP colleagues to adopt his map as their base map when the committee meets again on Friday to vote out a Senate plan.

“We have a big decision to make right now,’’ said Clemens, who is not a member of the committee. “If you go with any of the base maps, what you’re saying is it’s more important to jump the bay than it is to be able to draw the districts in the way that I’ve drawn them.”

Clemens said the reason Republican legislators want to link the communities of Hillsborough and Pinellas is to protect GOP incumbents whose districts would otherwise lean Democratic.

By linking South Pinellas with black communities in Southwest Hillsborough, they are able to preserve a Republican-dominated seat in Pinellas County, similar to one now held by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. The African-American seat is currently held by Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa.

But Clemens proposal was immediately rejected by Galvano. His proposal, s9084, will become the Senate's starting point when the committee attempts to vote out a proposed map on Friday. Clemens said he will file his map as an amendment to Galvano’s proposal. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 9:29pm]


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