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House narrows its list of maps with votes along party lines

Florida's political divisions came clearer Monday as two House committees narrowed down their list of proposed redistricting maps along party lines -- with Republicans voting in favor of them and Democrats voting against.

The House Subcommittee on Senate Reapportionment accepted the Senate's proposed map and voted it out along party lines. The House Subcommittee on Congressional Reapportionment amended and voted out three of its seven maps, numbers 9009, 9011 and 9013, also along party lines. The amendments, said Chairman John Legg, “clean up” the maps to include more compact city and county boundaries and address public concerns.

The committee then choose the three districts that, based on a staff analysis, appeared to keep city and county boundaries together best.

The House congressional committee heard from only one member of the public, Cape Coral Democrat Jim Roach, who urged the committee to redraw the maps because they pack Democrats into districts, giving them 20-26 percent Democratic advantage while allowing Republican districts to remain more diverse, with only 9 to 7 percent voter registration advantage over Democrats.

Roach, a candidate for Congress, said that voters expected fairer districts when they supported the constitutional amendments that required that the maps don't take into consideration party affiliation.

"Myself, and much of the public, are going to look at this and say what changed before we had Amemdments 5 and 6,'' he said. "We haven’t fixed the lopsided view of how we have the Democrats and Republicans mixed in these districts. I don't think we've fixed this. We have to live with this in the next 10 years."

Rep. Dwayne Taylor, a Daytona Beach Democrat who joined all the Democrats on the committee to oppose the maps, said he objected because the committee hadn't conducted public hearings to give the public an opportunity to effectively review the proposals.

Republicans countered, however, that they conducted a series of hearings and accepted numbers public submissions for proposed maps. 

"There's a chance this may be the most open and transparent redistricting process in the history of the United States,'' said Rep. Scott Plakon, a Seminole Republican.

The House's Senate Redistricting Subcommittee approved the Senate's proposal to draw its own lines, voting along party lines in a short meeting of about 10 minutes long. Sen Darryl Rouson said his "no" vote now was to encourage additional revisions to the boundary lines before the bill reaches the floor.

After the meeting, Rouson said he wants more attention paid to making districts compact, avoiding dividing up cities and preserving minority districts. No one from the public addressed the committee and there was little discussion among members before the vote.

 The full House redistricting committee will narrow down the proposals to a single map in each district at a meeting scheduled for Jan. 20.

-- Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.