City making minor tweaks to redistricting map

Gainesville’s redistricting efforts are in a holding pattern until the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) adopts the new voting precincts being drawn by the supervisor of elections.

The city commission again looked at a new map – this time with alterations proposed by Commissioner Harvey Ward – at a special meeting Thursday afternoon.

Ward’s proposed map suggests “minor changes” to the map approved by the commission Monday – altering the border of two voting precincts to keep the precincts from splitting three neighborhoods in half.

Ward said his map would alter precinct boundaries for proposed voting precincts 17 and 50 to keep three neighborhoods from being split between District 2, their current district, and District 4. Ward’s version of the map would move all three neighborhoods into District 4. 

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, who drew the map the commission approved Monday, said Thursday he supports the changes Ward has proposed.

Kim Barton, the supervisor of elections, would have to approve the changes Ward suggests since it involves switching the borders of voting precincts.

Although Barton and her staff are responsible to redraw the county’s voting precincts, the new voting precincts also have to be adopted by the BOCC, interim City Attorney Daniel Nee said Thursday. 

Gainesville proposed commission district map 3-31-22

Once the BOCC has approved the new precincts, the city can finalize its new district maps. 

The city uses voting precincts to define the boundaries of its four districts – a practice that helps the city minimize splitting precincts between separate districts.

“That’s the way we try to do it to absolutely minimize unnecessary precinct splits,” Nee said. “Every time there’s a split, it adds additional complexity. Additional complexity leads to potential issues when it comes to the actual administration of the election, which is the last thing we want.”

Minimizing precinct splits and complexity helps ensure that voters receive the correct ballots during an election, Nee said.

Nee said the supervisor of elections office plans to present the new countywide voting precincts at an April meeting of the BOCC. 

Once the supervisor finalizes a date to present the precincts to the BOCC, the city will begin required legal advertising for its new district boundaries and set meeting dates to approve a redistricting ordinance.

The city is required to undergo redistricting after every U.S. Census. Gainesville’s four districts were last set after the 2010 census, and in that time the city’s population has shifted and created unevenly sized districts. 

The city’s four districts should be roughly equal in terms of population, and the redrawing of the districts has attempted to rebalance the districts’ size. The city has also worked to preserve the majority of black voters in District 1 and has redrawn the boundaries to create a second minority-majority district in District 3.

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