The Redistricting Process in Florida

Eitan Greenberg, Copy Editor

Remember when the U.S. census was conducted in early 2020? Well, the census’s importance comes into play now, when states — including Florida — take part in congressional redistricting. Every 10 years, state congresses around the country are tasked with redrawing congressional districts based on population gains or losses. After a delay in counting by the Census Bureau due to COVID-19, it was announced that the state of Florida would gain a new district, bringing the number to 28 from the previous 27. This surprised many experts, who believed that Florida could end up with up to 30 districts. 

In 1964, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. This outlawed any racial, gender or any other group-based discrimination in the U.S., causing several states to change the way they redrew their boundaries. A handful of states, including California and Michigan, have a non-partisan, independent commission conducting redistricting on their behalf. These commissions agree upon a legal, racially fair map that the governor then signs. Other states, such as Virginia and New York, use a hybrid system, where an independent third party draws an initial map that is then revised by the state legislature. However, the most common and prone-to-gerrymandering system is legislature dominant, with most states, including Florida and Texas, employing it. Under this system, the state legislature decides the new boundaries without the use of a commission.

Gerrymandering is common in Florida; by definition, gerrymandering is the manipulation of an electoral constituency’s boundaries to favor one party, race or class. In 2010, Florida voters passed the Fair Districts Amendments, outlawing gerrymandering in the state. Despite this law, Republican state legislators ignored it and attempted to favor incumbents of their own party. They were challenged in court and defeated, leading to the creation of a legal map. Many Democrats worry that this year’s map will end up strongly favoring Republicans, who already dominate Florida’s political landscape

Miami Beach mayor and former Florida House Minority Leader and Fair Districts Advocate Dan Gelber is concerned about Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s expected veto and the legality of the new map. 

“No question, [DeSantis] obviously doesn’t care about requirements for redistricting, which would support majority-minority districts. The Florida Constitution states that you cannot diminish those districts,” Gelber said. 

If DeSantis vetoes the bill and the legislature cannot agree on a new map, the courts draw the map. 

In past election cycles, traditionally Democratic parts of South Florida have become increasingly Republican, largely due to increased Republican Cuban turnout. Ever since Donald Trump won Florida by 3.36 percentage points in 2020 (with a wave of Republican wins in Miami), state Democrats have feared that this redistricting cycle may be the worst one yet for the party. Although there is still the possibility the legislature will override the veto, Democrats’ and Fair District Advocates’ fears may be realized in the future.