The Orange County Advisory Committee for Redistricting's Camille Evans, left, alongside her co-chair Hector "Tico" Perez during Monday night's meeting that yielded two proposed maps.

OC panel OKs two redistricting maps for county commissioners; board to review, make changes by mid-March

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By
Dibya Sarkar

Managing Editor

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

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OrangeTV

The Orange County Advisory Committee for Redistricting's Camille Evans, left, alongside her co-chair Hector "Tico" Perez during Monday night's meeting that yielded two proposed maps.

After a marathon 4½-hour meeting Monday night, the committee that has been reconfiguring Orange County’s six political districts as part of the decennial redistricting process agreed to advance two similar maps to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for its consideration.


Both maps — named Committee Proposal 13A-1 and Committee Proposal 13A-2 — are amended from one (Committee Proposal 13A) that the 15-member Advisory Committee for Redistricting had advanced at its previous meeting. It was expected that members would propose amendments to map 13A at Monday's meeting for what they perceived to be flaws. Former Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, who had proposed map 13A, wasn’t at the meeting but had given his blessing for them to make tweaks.

Both amended maps keep the city of Ocoee consolidated in District 2 that was proposed by Kilsheimer’s map. Currently, the city is split between districts 1 and 2. Oakland, Windermere and Winter Garden remain in District 1. The difference between maps 13A-1 and 13A-2 are shifts of different neighborhoods from one district to another.


County commissioners are expected to get the amended maps in mid-January. They would have until March 11, or the end of its legislative session, to approve a map that will establish boundaries for the next 10 years. There’s no guarantee that the BCC will adopt either of the maps wholesale.


While Monday night appeared to be the redistricting committee’s last meeting for its volunteer members, Cristina Berrios, assistant county attorney, reminded them that they could still be called back by the BCC if it needed additional input.


The intent of the redistricting process is to make the county’s six commission districts as equal in population as possible so all residents have an equally weighted vote. Orange County’s population grew by 25 percent to 1,429,908, according to the 2020 census. Districts must also be contiguous and compact, maintain communities of interest and protect incumbents, among other principles.


Most of the changes made to the map 13A were aimed at ensuring that districts were as close to the ideal district population as possible. That meant moving lines and populations of a few hundred to several thousand from one district into another. Some members also sought to correct areas on map 13A to remove the appearance of gerrymandering. Others expressed concern over future population growth of each district over the next decade as well as protecting communities of interest. Berrios had advised members that the committee is supposed to be “racially neutral” when drawing lines.


The meeting was characterized by questions over process and procedure as much as it was over changing lines and shifting populations. The committee had some trouble early on figuring out just how they would handle amendments as members presented them. The committee adopted member Zach Hoover’s recommendation to hear all the amendments first and then determine if one package of amendments was superior to others. Hoover, a Winter Garden resident representing District 1, works for the Orlando Health hospital system.

For the map that became 13A-1, the committee approved amendments proposed by Wes Hodge, a District 5 committee representative and Orange County Democratic Party chair, and Homer Hartage, District 6 committee representative and business owner, by a 9-5 vote.


For the map that became 13A-2, member Jimmy Auffant, a local lawyer from District 4, proposed six changes to map 13A, the most of any during the night, along with a later amendment by Virginia Whittington, a District 6 representative who is director of Regional Partnerships at MetroPlan Orlando. The committee approved that map by a 9-5 vote, as well.


At the end of the meeting, the committee unanimously OK'd a motion to advance both those amended maps to the BCC.

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