BOCC approves boundaries, adds new precinct

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted to adopt the new election precinct lines presented by the Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE) that will likely stay until the next federal census.

The motion also included a letter to the Gainesville City Commission asking it to consider conforming to the precinct maps as much as possible.

The Florida Legislature settled on new district boundaries for its representatives and senators on Feb. 3 based on the 2020 Census, allowing local counties to begin conforming to the lines. 

The new map layout splits Alachua County into two senate districts, roughly dividing the county in half between north and south, and three congressional districts. The new state lines based on the 2020 Census forced the SOE to revise boundaries to eliminate split precincts.

Under the past districts, Alachua County only had one senate district but still had three house districts, though one only contained High Springs in the northwestern corner. 

Most adjacent counties have only one house district except for Marion County with five and Clay County with two. For senate districts, all adjacent counties contain only one state senator. On the past map, Marion County had two. 

Michael Bruckman, SOE vote-by-mail ballot coordinator, said the county would have split precincts all over if it kept current boundaries. 

“We potentially would have triples somewhere,” Bruckman said. “We would have to make these changes. There’s no option not to.”

Precincts 14 and 34 will be split between state representatives

Split precincts occur when voters in the same precinct vote for different representatives. Instead of poll workers handing out one ballot based on what precinct a voter lives in, workers must determine where in the precinct a voter lives in order to hand out the proper ballot. 

Under the revised map, the county will still have two split precincts on the eastern side—numbers 14 and 34. 

However, Bruckman said the office could live with the splits. He said precinct 34 divides along both the house and senate line, making the job easier.  

The SOE also had to add a new precinct, No. 64, between the cities of Newberry and High Springs. 

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton said her office plans to cover the financial impacts of the new precinct. She said the budget should handle the increase.

“As far as the voting equipment and the salaries for this additional precinct, we’re going to absorb it, and if we see we have an issue then we will come back,” Barton said.

Now that the county has finalized its precincts, the City of Gainesville can move forward with its city commission district boundaries. 

Commissioner Ken Cornell urged the Gainesville commission to avoid split precincts on the city level that will likely confuse city elections for the next 10 years.

“I would hope that across the street that they really try to prevent splitting precincts in their drawing of their districts,” Cornell said. 

He asked for the letter to Gainesville to be included in the motion. 

The Gainesville City Commission has tried to create plans over the past couple months but kept running into incomplete information on where new precinct boundaries would be. 

The commission has created a tentative map, asking for some precinct boundaries to change in order to keep neighborhoods unified. 

The city can now finalize district boundaries with complete information. Gainesville will take up the issue at its Thursday General Policy Commission.

 

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