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Hillsborough moves forward on 3 redistricting maps amid accusations of racism, partisan politics

The redrawing of lines is required every 10 years according to Hillsborough’s own charter.

TAMPA, Fla — Hillsborough County commissioners have settled on three redistricting maps - one of which will eventually determine future representation on the board.

The maps are based upon the 2020 census but are already being met with allegations of racism and partisan politics.

The maps will now be advertised and then open for public comment in November.

“Let’s send the three out,” said Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White. “Let’s get further input.”

The redrawing of lines is required every 10 years according to Hillsborough’s own charter.

“I think that giving the public three maps with these varying differences will ferret out, hopefully, some comment that is consistent, that can move us into one direction,” said Commissioner Harry Cohen.

At stake is representation.

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Moving a line can mean a difference in hundreds, perhaps thousands of votes. This is why Commissioner Gwen Myers - representing the heavily African American District 3 - was passionate in opposing any plan that would dilute that community’s voice.

“And always figure away how we’re going to get rid of the African American community. It’s just not going to happen today,” said Commissioner Myers. “We have to figure a way, again, for inclusion, diversity, and equity. And that’s what these maps should represent.”

The three maps moving forward are Revised Map E, Revised Map F, and a new Map G. All three maintain roughly the same level of African American representation at around 39 percent.

But, Commissioner Ken Hagen, one of the few conservatives on the board, says the new maps are more biased when it comes to politics and meant, in his words, to ensure Democrats retain a majority.

“Redistricting has become extremely partisan,” said Commissioner Hagan. “Every person sitting on this dais knows the primary intent of Maps E and G is to make district one solidly Democrat and to make district two as strong as a Democrat district as possible.”

The public will have between now and November to assess the proposed maps and then share their thoughts at a pair of public meetings.

Small changes or tweaks based on that input could be made without starting the process over. But according to the county charter, a redistricting plan must be settled on and passed by Dec. 31st.

County staffers say, if Hillsborough commissioners decide the redistricting map needs major revisions, it could still be accomplished by the end of the year. They’ve set aside dates in December just in case.

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