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New Senate Map Could Help Elect More Dems, But Not In NE Florida

Florida Senate

Florida Democrats are celebrating a recently approved state Senate map drawn by voting rights groups.

Democrats say the new maps could make it easier for them to win seats in upcoming elections.

But area Republicans seem unfazed and say they’re confident they can hold on to their jobs.

Duval County Democratic Party Chairman Neil Hendrichson says it’s unlikely the boundary changes will affect Northeast Florida specifically.

“Looking at the map, the seat from Senator Aaron Bean is still weighted more Republican, and I don’t think that’s going to necessarily tip the scales on his Senate seat,” he says.

But statewide, the new map perfectly splits Florida Senate districts between right- and left-leaning areas. Hendrichson says that could allow his party to win control of a chamber of the state Legislature for the first time in more than 20 years.

But Republican leaders, including Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville), say their colleagues on the other side of the aisle will still have an uphill battle to win the upper chamber.

“You might see some closer challenges here or there, but keep in mind, if you push a line somewhere, it’s going to benefit somebody else somewhere else,” Ray says.

Judge George Reynolds ruled the original map drawn by Republican Senate leaders favored Republicans, violating state constitutional amendments requiring “fair districts.” He instead ruled in favor of one submitted by a voting-rights coalition. 

Still, Ray says you’d be hard-pressed to draw a map that’s completely non-partisan and says the courts overstepped their boundaries by approving maps not drawn by the Legislature. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.