TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers have begun the once-a-decade process of redrawing their own district boundaries, as well as those of Congress.
Two million more residents got the state an additional congressional district that will likely be in Central Florida.
From 2010 to 2020, 13 Florida counties grew more than 20%, while 17 lost population.
“Districts, where feasible, will utilize existing political and geographic boundaries,” said state Rep. Tyler Siros.
Redistricting has never been easy.
Then-Republican leader Bill James said this in 1982: “The existing system has been more concerned with protecting incumbents than in protecting the rights of the citizens of Florida.”
Even former Gov. Bob Graham likened it to operate on oneself.
“Reapportionment is a lot like doing open-heart surgery on yourself. It’s a very difficult political job for the Legislature,” said Graham in 1982.
Back then, maps were drawn by hand.
Now, residents have access to the same map-making tools as lawmakers.
Sixty-three percent of those who voted in 2010 approved the Fair District Amendments providing guidance on how redistricting must be carried out.
After the last map drawing session, lawmakers admitted they drew maps favoring incumbents.
That’s prohibited by the fair districts amendment.
But lawmakers said they now have case law telling them what they can and can’t do.
“So, we have a better understanding today than the legislature did ten years ago about how we implement these standards,” said Siros.
Jonathan Webber of Florida Conservation Voters is taking lawmakers at their word.
“The Constitution is extremely clear on what the requirements are of the Legislature during this process, and, I am looking forward to them following that. They promised that. They said that,” said Webber.
The Fair Districts Amendments also require the map drawing to get done by the end of the 60-day session, which starts in mid-March of 2022.