The redistribution would normally be in progress but 2021 is not normal
Readers are warned: the end of summer will bring the season for redistribution.
In a more normal redistribution cycle, things would already be well advanced. But the census that determines the mapping of districts was carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic and everything was delayed. Granular population counts used to plot the boundaries of seats in Congress and the Legislature will not begin to be released until August 16, according to the Census Bureau. In other words, if nothing happens.
At this point all we know is Florida will win one more seat in Congress.
It’s a tight schedule, and voters won’t know which legislative or congressional district they are in until the end of next year’s legislative session. Assuming, of course, that everything goes on time, a special session is not necessary and the courts are not called upon to intervene.
These delays affect local politics as politicians cannot assess their chances until they know what districts look like. They cannot know which seats are up for grabs until current holders announce their intentions in reaction to the new card. You then have a domino effect when a state legislator shows up to the US House of Representatives, which creates an opportunity for a county official to run for the legislature, which in turn creates an opportunity for a city official to run for a county seat, which in turn opens up city posts to new faces.
Expect a quick reshuffle just before candidates qualify next June.
I approach each ten-year redistribution season with dread. It is because my home county can be terribly divided. My favorite example is Deltona who, prior to the last round of redistribution, was represented by no less than two U.S. officials, a pair of state senators, and four state officials – none of whom lived in the county’s largest city of Volusia, and only two lived anywhere. in Volusia County.
Sliced and diced Volusia County
Volusia County was divided among congressional districts from 1992 until the court-ordered map was implemented in 2015. At one point, the county had three members of the United States House, including none lived in Volusia. None of them had the needs of Volusia County as their primary concern.
Because Volusia County tends to be the backyard of districts centered elsewhere, we have only had three members of Congress who have lived here in our entire political history: Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach , 2009-2011, Craig James, R-DeLand, 1989-1993, Charles Dougherty, D-Port Orange, 1885-1889. The current Volusia representative, Michael Waltz, R-St. Augustine, lives just north of his district, but unlike his predecessor in the House, now governor. Ron DeSantis, he looks at Volusia County from time to time.
(An asterisk here goes to Representative William V. “Bill” Chappell, one of the last of the old Democrats boll weevils, who lived in Ocala, but at the end of his career bought a condo in Ormond Beach to visit so that he could tell he lived in his neighborhood. Before, appearances mattered more.)
Last time, Volusia County benefited from the fair constituency amendments approved by voters in 2010. These amendments indicated that constituency boundaries could not be drawn for the purpose of favoring incumbents or political parties. He also said borders should avoid dividing cities and counties.
The courts have upheld this new constitutional mandate, a long process. This time around, however, we have a State Supreme Court that is much more willing to give the legislature the benefit of the doubt and has proven to be comfortable deviating from established precedents.
So, will the Republican-majority legislature be more inclined to dilute the voting power of Democratic-leaning cities – like Daytona Beach and to a lesser extent Deltona? Will the Florida legislature get away with more obvious gerrymandering this time around? I guess so, but there’s no way to predict it.
Central Florida is a high growth region, and where there is a lot of growth, district boundaries need to change to ensure that each district has the same population. It will be quite a headache for lawmakers to solve while keeping an eye on their own interests. A puzzle that could make it harder for communities in Volusia County to remain politically intact.
Mark Lane is a News-Journal columnist. His email address is [email protected]