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Broward County's battle cry: Keep it vertical in redistricting

Published Aug. 14, 2015

Broward County Mayor Tim Ryan had a simple message for legislators redrawing the map of Florida congressional districts: Keep it vertical. "It's definitely more favorable to be in a vertical position than a horizontal position," Ryan said with a twinkle in his eye Thursday -- and he wasn't joking.

Broward Democrats are livid with the Legislature's base map. They claim that the common interests of coastal cities will be ruined if lawmakers stay on their present course. Political and business leaders are pounding home that message in emails, op-eds and letters to legislative leaders as they try to protect the current district of West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, in an op-ed written for the Sun-Sentinel, blasted the Legislature for not holding more public hearings and said the base map before lawmakers will "obliterate the notion of common cummunity interests." Seiler, a former Democratic House member, emphasized that Broward's western suburbs "have little in common with their coastal counterparts ... The need to address issues like beach renourishment, sustainability, resiliency, flooding and salt-water intrusion are common in all of South Florida's coastal communities." He also said it makes logical sense for the same member of Congress to represent the seaports and airports in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which are near the coast.

Much of Broward is now represented by two Palm Beach County Democrats, Frankel (District 22) and Ted Deutch (District 21). Deutch has the county's northwest quadrant and Frankel represents coastal areas largely east of I-95, from just north of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport to West Palm Beach, similar to the district that the late Republican E. Clay Shaw represented for decades. But the new base map would push Deutch entirely into Palm Beach County and leave Frankel with a more horizontal district in a reverse C-shape that runs east and west.

The Florida Supreme Court's opinion noted that Common Cause and League of Women Voters, in challenging the shape of both districts, said they should be "stacked" on top of each other horizontally as they are in the base map, rather than aligned vertically as they are now. The court said that because the Legislature has not explained why it drew the districts vertically, "the districts must be redrawn." But the court did not insist that they be drawn horizontally and left that decision up to lawmakers.

The seven-member Senate Reapportionment Committee includes one member who represents a small sliver of Broward: Miami Gardens Democrat Oscar Braynon, the panel's vice-chairman.