Florida’s Political Lineup
There is no redistricting deadline, but the deadline for qualifying for state office is in mid-July of 2002, making that the practical deadline.
Who’s in Charge of Redistricting?
The legislature is responsible for drawing all districts. In the senate it is handled by the Select Committee on Apportionment and Redistricting, and in the house by the Committee on Reapportionment. The Florida state constitution requires that redistricting be done in the 2002 session of the Florida Legislature, or in a special session called by the Governor if districts are not drawn by the end of the regular session. The state Supreme Court will step in if the legislature fails to meet the candidate-qualifying deadline. The Governor has veto power over the congressional plan but not the state legislative district plan; that plan is adopted by joint resolution of the legislature.
Florida gained four districts in 1991; the Democrats controlled redistricting, but were too conflicted, particularly over creation of minority opportunity districts, to form a plan. A federal court finally adopted a plan in 1992 that created three black-majority districts and two Latino-majority districts.
Florida has gained two new seats in 2001. Republicans control both houses of the state legislature, which is in charge of districting. Allready holding 15 of 23 U.S. House seats, Republicans should be able to cement that edge without adjusting lines too much. The status quo is serving incumbents well; eighteen incumbents did not face a major party opponent in 1998, and there were ten uncontested races in 2000.
The Florida legislature is very proactive in promoting citizen access. There will be 26 public hearings around the state, including several videoconferences with legislators. In addition, the legislature has set up a computer program (FREDS 2000) that allows citizens access to election and census information. As part of Florida's "online sunshine" mission, Internet websites have been set up with information on redistricting acitivity in the the house and Senate. The Senate site features a schedule of hearings, archives of the public hearings in video and transcript formats, ordering information for FREDS 2000, and a timeline (in PDF format). The House page includes similar information. Printed reports will also be available. A very informative article was printed in the Miami Herald about Florida's initiative to make redistricitng a more public process.
In 1998, Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission voted to include creation of a redistricting commission in a package of constitutional reforms that ultimately passed. Immediately after this commission vote, however, Republican Party leaders and African American and Latino elected officials pressured commission members to reverse their vote. Two members did so, thus removing the measure from the November 1998 ballot.
A bi-partisan coalition of civic groups (with Common Cause playing a central role) has formed to support a ballot initiative to carry forward the redistricting commission reform proposal for redistricting after the 2010 Census. Called People Over Politics, the coalition in 2001 is in the midst of an effort to gather more than 400,000 signatures.
The proposal has two major components. First, it would mandate certain standards. Legislative districts would need to: be contiguous and compact; respect county and municipal boundaries to the extent possible; and not be influenced by party affiliation of voters and candidates. Second, it would establish a commission. The majority and minority parties of the Florida House and Senate would each select four members each to serve on a Commission. These 16 members would then select a 17th member who must be registered without party affiliation. Every member of the Commission would sign an oath not to run for the Legislature or lobby for the four years following their service, and all actions of the Commission would be open and conducted in public.
In 1993, a state Supreme Court-approved plan of house and senate legislative districts was challenged under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as illegally diluting the votes of certain blacks and Hispanics in several districts. A U.S. district court upheld the plan, but in its DeGrandy ruling in 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that because minority voters constituted voting majorities in a percentage of legislative districts proportional to their share in the general population in Dade County, there was no illegal vote dilution even if minorities were under-represented based on statewide percentages.
Later in the decade, the 3rd congressional district was challenged as a "racial gerrymander," as articulated in Shaw v. Reno. The U.S. District court upheld the challenge in 1996, and the Florida Legislature was required to enact a modified 3rd district plan. In the late 1990s, another Shaw case was filed against congressional and state legislative districts in southern Florida. It failed, with the district court concluding that plaintiffs had waited too long to file their suit.
Irregularly Shaped District
Irregularly Shaped District
· Race (22nd CD): 94% white; 3% black; 1% Asian; 13% Hispanic
· Race (23rd CD): 45% white; 52% black; 1% Asian; 9% Hispanic
· 22nd: never more than 3 miles wide and includes upscale beach communities
· 16th CD intersects 23rd CD