Census figures set the stage for redesigning districts


Overdue for months, key U.S. Census figures were released on Thursday, August 12, which will allow Florida lawmakers to begin the process of redesigning congressional and legislative districts for the 21.5 million people in the United States. ‘State.

It is now up to the Republican lawmakers overseeing the work to determine how far they think state courts will let them go in crafting new lines that will include an additional district in Congress. The past redistribution sparked fierce legal battles as Republicans and Democrats scrambled for political advantages.

Ahead of the release of census data, a coalition of groups hosted a webinar on Wednesday to discuss efforts to ensure that once-a-decade redistribution remains a “transparent process” that follows anti-gerrymandering guidelines in “constitutional amendments”. Fair Districts ”approved. by voters in 2010.

“I would like to be optimistic about this current redistricting cycle,” said Ellen Freidin, leader of the FairDistricts Florida movement and CEO of FairDistricts Now, Inc. “So far, the legislature has given us no reason to be optimistic. that the fair District amendments will be respected, but we still have hope and look forward to, as I am sure you are, to see this process unfold.

As a lesson learned from the process a decade ago, Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson R-Trilby and House Speaker Chris Sprowls R-Palm Harbor separately on Thursday advised lawmakers to refrain from discussing the proposals. card, especially with people who hope to benefit from the changes.

“The House continues to strongly recommend that planned or unplanned conversations about redistribution not take place outside of the committee process with people who have a vested interest in the outcome of the redistribution process,” Sprowls wrote in a note. .

The House and Senate plan to have a common website to provide detailed information to the public. Additionally, comments will be gathered at committee meetings held prior to the 2022 legislative session. Lawmakers are expected to approve final maps during the session, which begins in January.

Ten years ago, 26 public hearings were held across the state over the summer, leading to the redistribution of districts. But lawmakers had more time in 2011, as COVID-19 delayed the 2020 census count.

“Although the census bureau’s delay in releasing redistribution data is unique to this cycle, we are still on schedule to redraw district maps — during the 2022 regular session.” said Tom Leek, president of House Redistricting, R-Ormond. Beach, said in a statement. “We are ready to get to work.

Sprows advised members to “wait” as the website, which will provide interactive maps and a place for voters to submit their comments, will be rolled out before the committee weeks of September 20 begin.

The figures released by the census bureau on Thursday were the first local-level results from the 2020 census. Statistics on issues such as voting age population and race are used to redraw district boundaries.

As a result of its growth over the past decade, the number of Florida congressional districts will increase from 27 to 28. Republicans currently hold a 16 to 11 advantage among members of the United States House, an advantage of 24-16 in the State Senate and a near majority of 78-42 in the State House.

Ten years ago, the redistribution process was the first under the guidelines of the Fair Districts and resulted in court battles that forced changes in the maps of Congress and the Senate.

But one factor in the upcoming mapping is that the state’s Supreme Court has become more conservative, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis appointing replacements for three left-wing justices who were forced to retire in 2019.

Freidin asked legislative leaders to live stream the map-drafting process and noted that lawmakers had been urged to commit to following the requirements of Fair Districts. So far, 17 of 160 state lawmakers — all Democrats –— have signed the pledge.

With population changes and the addition of a new seat in Congress, National Republicans have already focused on Congressional District 7, a seat in Seminole and Orange counties held by Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy , a Blue Dog Democrat. The neighborhood could be made redder by redesigning it to include neighboring conservative areas.

The national GOP has also targeted Pinellas County Congressional District 13, which is held by Democrat Charlie Crist. The seat will be open as Crist is running for governor in 2022.

The state’s population, rising 14.6% over the past decade, has exceeded the country’s 7.4% growth.

Among urban areas, Miami-Dade remains the largest county, with 2.7 million people, according to census data. Next come Broward with 1.9 million inhabitants; Palm Beach at 1.5 million; Hillsborough at nearly 1.46 million; Orange at nearly 1.43 million; and Duval at 995 567.

Among these counties, Orange County recorded the highest percentage growth at 24.8%, followed by Hillsborough at 18.8% and Duval at 15.2%. Palm Beach’s growth rate since 2010 was 13%, Broward was 11.2%, and Miami-Dade was 8.2%.

At the other end of the spectrum, rural Liberty County west of Tallahassee saw its population drop 4.7% to 7,974.

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