Online mapping software to let the public take part in the redrawing of Florida’s electoral districts went live Wednesday, while prospects of repeating a 2011-style redistricting “road show” for public hearings dimmed.
House Redistricting Chairman Tom Leek, a Volusia County Republican, said there is little time available for committee members to travel for public hearings around Florida, as was done after the 2010 Census to hear public comments on drafting new maps in 2012 for legislative and congressional districts.
That’s because COVID-19 delayed the process of gathering, processing and then distributing 2020 Census data to the states, cutting into the time Florida lawmakers convening in January have left to draw new district boundaries ahead of state and federal qualifying periods that start June 13.
In counterpoint, the new website and mapping software unveiled Wednesday give Floridians opportunities to participate in redistricting from any place in Florida with sufficient internet service. The website address is www.floridaredistricting.gov.
Comments from members of the House Redistricting Committee and public speakers who testified expressed praise for the website and digital public access that will facilitate public participation without requiring travel.
Chair Leek said he spoke for himself and House Speaker Chris Sprowls in pledging to guide the drawing of the new districts in compliance with state and federal law and the Fair Districts constitutional amendments adopted by voters in 2010.
“The Speaker and I have made it consistently and abundantly clear that the House will conduct this process in compliance with the Florida Constitution and relevant federal and state legal standards, including relevant court precedent,” Leek announced, saying it twice for emphasis.
Rep. Joe Geller, a Broward-Dade Democrat heading the Democratic caucus on the GOP-dominated committee, applauded that commitment and challenged members to honor it by drawing new maps that better reflect the political diversity of the state than do the current ones. He said recent Florida races won by Republicans were won by slim margins, yet the Legislature as constituted does not reflect the narrowness of the divide.
“At the end, I’m not interested in, and the law prohibits, favoring one political party. I do think we should be guided in some fashion by the express will of the people of Florida,” Geller said, citing the Fair Districts constitutional amendments and the composition of actual voter turnouts.
Despite the new constitutional amendments, Florida’s 2011-12 redistricting cycle was riddled with lawsuits charging that the GOP-drawn maps were unlawful. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court threw them out and drew its own.
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