City seeks input on latest redistricting map

The Gainesville City Commission is asking for community input into another redistricting map – one that conforms more closely to proposed new voting precincts from the county elections office.

The commission talked with Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton at a special meeting Monday about the new precincts she is drawing, and approved another city district map variation proposed by Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos that takes those precincts into account.

The city commission will discuss redistricting again on Thursday at 1 p.m. at another special meeting. The commission is hoping that by Thursday they will have an initial agreement from Barton on their latest map and as a result will be in a position to introduce a redistricting ordinance at their April 7 meeting.

Hayes-Santos had been working on the map over the weekend, and Monday’s meeting was the first time the election supervisor had seen the newest iteration. 

“[The latest map] is workable, but I want to take a look at it more closely,” Barton told the commission Monday. 

The city commission also would like to get as much feedback from the public as possible before Thursday’s meeting. The latest map can be accessed on the District Builder site, and residents can use the software to zoom on specific areas and district boundaries.

Gainesville proposed re-districting map

Those boundaries now reflect precinct changes proposed by the supervisor of elections office.

When the Florida Legislature redrew the boundaries for new state house and senate districts, “the legislative lines carve the city virtually into thirds,” said Mike Bruckman, the county election office’s vote-by-mail ballot coordinator, in Monday’s  presentation to the commission. 

The new house and senate lines are drawn in such a way that the supervisor of elections is having to overhaul several of the city and county voting precincts, Bruckman said.

“It wasn’t our first choice – those lines – but we had to follow them,” he said.

Like the state, the city is required to undergo redistricting after each U.S. Census. Since the last census, the city’s population has shifted and the population of voters is unequally distributed across the four city districts.

The new maps have rebalanced the districts in terms of population. The city also has worked to preserve the majority black voting age population in District 1 and to create a second minority-majority district in District 3.

Hayes-Santos said his map also tackles two problems the community members identified in earlier maps. An earlier version of the map would have moved precinct 27, which contains the Duckpond area, from District 4 to District 1. The version approved Monday moves the Duckpond precinct back into District 4.

Earlier maps also split the Stephen Foster neighborhood into two separate city districts. The newest map puts the whole of the neighborhood into District 4.

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton

UF consultants for the city have been working on the redistricting process since the fall, but the city is on a tight deadline to complete the process. 

In addition to the city approving a new district ordinance on first and second reading, the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners must also approve the election precincts for the whole county, interim City Attorney Daniel Nee said.

“We didn’t put ourselves in this position,” Mayor Lauren Poe said. “This was the census being late, and the legislature doing what they did. Unfortunately that’s where we are.” 

Although the city’s deadline to redistrict isn’t until December 2022, the city commission has been working to get the new maps set before the August 2022 city elections, which now coincide with the statewide primary elections.

Barton told the commission that they should set the maps in time for the upcoming election. Keeping the existing districts would make it even more difficult to administer an August election.

“If you leave it as it is, it’s going to be an even bigger problem because your districts are based on 2012,” Barton said. “The population has grown. If you leave it like it is, it’s going to be a mess for us. As the legislature drew the lines, it’s already crazy for us.”

 

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