Winter Garden commission considers new voting map
Districts 1 and 3 would gain territory with the latter remaining majority nonwhite
Winter Garden came one step closer to updating its voting districts when Derek Blakeslee, chair of the Districting Commission, presented a new district map proposal to the city commission Jan. 27.
Blakeslee said the five-member commission – composed of John Murphy, Myron Brown, Selenia Roldan, Steve Dolgin and Blakeslee — met four times to develop the map, had sought public input and unanimously recommended its current iteration.
Voting districts are typically redrawn every 10 years, following the census, to reflect population changes and ensure fair representation. That’s how Florida netted one more Congressional seat for a total of 28. And how, if the new proposed Orange County redistricting map is adopted, the city of Ocoee will be consolidated into one district rather than the current two, and represented by a single county commissioner..
In his presentation, Blakeslee explained that Winter Garden had been on a slightly different redistricting schedule. The city reconfigured its district boundaries in 2000 when the city had just 14,350 people and then again in 2008 when it had more than doubled in size to 31,000. At that point, District 4, the city’s southernmost district, had amassed 15,000-plus residents, dwarfing the other districts, which had between 4,500 and 5,800 apiece. When a district has more than 50 percent more people than the smallest district, the city charter mandates redistricting, Blakeslee said.
The 2020 census recorded Winter Garden’s population at 46,964, necessitating new district boundaries so that each of the city’s four districts has roughly the same number of people in it. This ensures that no district gains a disproportionate share of power. Currently, District 4 has nearly 16,000 residents — nearly double the number living in District 3, which has 8,363.
In drawing up the new districts, the Districting Commission’s main goal was “do no harm,” Blakeslee told VoxPopuli.
The first thing the commission did was to toss aside the city’s proposal, which would have formed the districts along an X and Y axis of Dillard Street and Colonial Drive. While that concept made the districts look “pretty,” Blakeslee said, none of the commission members favored that map because it gave every district a “white majority.”
Instead, Blakeslee said, the commission aimed “to take a scalpel” to the map “to keep the districts aligned as they’ve historically been.”
In that, the commission succeeded. As it shuffled roughly 11,000 people into each district, the commission’s two key goals were to keep neighborhoods intact and maintain a district’s original demographics. And with the proposed map, the racial and ethnic demographics of the districts fluctuate perhaps a percentage point or two. (See Existing Map and Proposed Map below.)
One exception is District 3, which declines from a nonwhite majority of 63 percent to 59 percent, including a five-percentage point decline in the Hispanic population. But it still maintains its identity as the only district in Winter Garden with a majority of BIPOC voters, including 19 percent Black voters, nearly 25 percent Hispanic voters, 7 percent Asian voters more than 5.5 percent who identify as biracial.
As the smallest district, District 3 grows the most under the new map. People living south of Roper St. down toward Braddock Park, who are used to voting in District 4, will now be in District 3 if this new map is adopted. Their new commissioner will be Mark Maciel.
District 1 expands as well, shifting westward to include Brandy Lake and Lakeview Middle School, and southward toward Colonial Dr. If the map is approved, residents in this area will now have Lisa Bennett as commissioner.
The city commission will vote on the new map at a later, still-to-be-determined date. According to the city charter, a new redistricting ordinance needs to be adopted “at least 90 days before the next regular city election.”
Commissioners have some time since the 2023 election for Mayor and District 1 Commissioner is still 13 months away.