March 17, 2018

Redistricting: Free-for-All in Florida

Here's what to expect during the 2012 Legislative redistricting process.

Cynthia Barnett | 3/1/2011

> Redistricting will inevitably end up in court.

Redistricting in Florida
[Illustration: Roger Chouinard]
Final boundaries have been subject to lawsuits each cycle for the past 30 years, and this year will be no exception — particularly with the fair districts amendments in play. In addition to the predictable legal battle, districts involving five counties — Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe — also will have to earn special approval from the U.S. Justice Department to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Most people assume Florida's so-called pre-clearance counties have roots in historically disenfranchised African-American voters, as they do in the rest of the South. But Florida's scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act is about compliance for Hispanics, the state's largest minority group. Hillsborough County, for example, "has a Hispanic population so dispersed that the crafting of minority-majority districts for the population in the county is impossible at present," say civil rights scholars Charles Bullock and Ronald Gaddie in their 2009 book "The Triumph of Voting Rights in the South."

> Uncertainty over the boundaries is likely to favor incumbents.

With final rulings on the newly drawn districts' constitutionality not expected until shortly before the June 2012 qualifying deadline, some potential candidates may not know their district's boundaries in time to decide whether to mount a campaign.

> Voices of Experience

Peter Wallace
Peter Wallace

"The technology has gotten so finely tuned that it is absolutely possible to draw fair districts, but so finely tuned that legislators also have the tools to do things they're not supposed to do. Every time a plan is drawn, the incumbent runs through a geographically microscopic political performance of the district. Somebody's going to have to look these incumbents in the eye and say, 'This is not about you, and it's not for you. We have standards that need to be followed.' "

— St. Petersburg attorney Peter Wallace, a former Democratic House Speaker who was chairman of the House reapportionment committee in 1992

Sandra Murman
Sandra Murman
"You really have to take a macro, regional look at things. It's not your district. It's not what happens in your county. It's got to be a much bigger-picture approach. When you take away and add to your county, you affect every other county in Florida. Yes, it's partisan; yes, it's political. But you've got to try to get beyond that and keep the voters in mind and do what's right."

— Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, Republican former state representative who was vice chair of congressional redistricting in 2002


Don Gaetz
Senate Redistricting Committee chairman

Will Weatherford
House Redistricting Committee chairman

John Guthrie
Senate Reapportionment Committee staff director

J. Alex Kelly
House Redistricting staff director

Don Gaetz
Don Gaetz

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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