Friday, August 27, 2021

Redistricting – Changing the Political Face of Florida

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin  

It's that time of the year again following the census when states are faced with the requirements for redistricting.

Redistricting is the process of drawing political boundaries for electoral and political districts in the United States and in Florida, in particular, and is usually done every 10 years following the census.

The US constitution requires that each representative in the US Congress represent an equal number of citizens and mandates a census to determine the number of citizens and apportion the seats to the state.

Since redistricting, is in the hands of the Florida State Legislature which is predominantly Republican in political stance, there are always confusion and angst in both political parties, Republican and Democrat regarding the redistricting process.

The most common political battles surrounding redistricting involves something called gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering BALLOTOPEDIA

The term gerrymandering refers to the practice of drawing electoral district lines to favor one political party, individual, or constituency over another. When used in a rhetorical manner by opponents of a particular district map, the term has a negative connotation but does not necessarily address the legality of a challenged map. In this context, proponents may counter that the map has not been gerrymandered but has been drawn to conform with overlapping, potentially conflicting redistricting standards. The term can also be used in legal proceedings and documents; in this context, the term describes redistricting practices that violate federal or state laws.

From Common Cause by: Ellen Freidlin, of Fair Districts Florida; A Guide to the 2022 Redistricting process in Florida:

Criteria for State Legislative and Congressional Districts

“The FairDistricts Amendments (passed in 2010) established constitutional requirements for the Legislature to follow when drawing state legislative and Congressional districts. If the rules are not followed, there are grounds for a legal challenge.

Tier 1 criteria:

No apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent – no partisan gerrymandering; and

Districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice – no racial gerrymandering.

Tier 2 criteria (must be followed unless doing so would conflict with the Tier one standards or federal law):

Districts shall consist of contiguous territory;

Districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable;

Districts shall be compact; and

District lines shall, where feasible, follow existing political and geographical boundaries.”

Criteria-Driven Legislative Redistricting with Judicial Approval:  (FairVote)

“Based on the approach taken in Florida, this reform would continue to allow the state legislature to adopt district maps, but it would require it to do so according to criteria set by statute. At the end of the process, the maps would have to be approved by the state Supreme Court as complying with the criteria.”

As citizens of Florida, we are merely observers in the redistricting process here in Florida, which ofttimes appears to be more of a cross between a circus sideshow and an opera.

Rarely do members of the Florida House or Senate request or even want, for that matter, public input on redistricting issues. This is a political process reserved for the politicians and the political insiders who want to gain the greatest political advantage in their counties and in the state legislature.

It's a good idea to follow these proceedings. We all hear a lot about it on the news both electronic and print and off times if there are significantly egregious changes proposed you may even see some legal action.

The greatest impact may be new opportunities for additional members of the state house in districts that have experienced significant population growth over the last ten years. Once redistricting is complete, in the next election cycle, we'll have all these potential new political opportunities on the ballot.

That's the time you want to start paying attention.

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