As a result of the 2020 census, Florida will gain one additional congressional seat, and Florida lawmakers will begin the process of congressional redistricting during the upcoming fall committee meetings with the 2022 legislative session beginning in January.
“Prior to the start of the 2022 Regular Session the Legislature will hold interim committee meetings, at which time the committees that conduct the redistricting and reapportionment processes may meet,” according to the Florida Senate’s redistricting site.
Republican lawmakers, who will be controlling much of the process, are wanting to learn from previous redistricting scrutiny and offer a transparent process.
“We are taking steps to safeguard against the kind of shadow process that occurred in the last cycle,” said State Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R- District 27). “We will protect our process against the ‘astroturfing’ that occurred in the past, where partisan political operatives from both parties wrote scripts and recruited speakers to advocate for certain plans or district configurations to create a false impression of a widespread grassroots movement.”
After the 2010 redistricting, the Florida Supreme Court overturned district boundary proposals they determined were gerrymandered or were beneficial to incumbent officeholders. Rodrigues continued by saying the judicial decision is helpful for this year’s process.
“Fortunately, we now have the insight into both the judiciary’s expanded scope of review, and how courts have interpreted and applied the constitutional standards related to redistricting,” Rodrigues said. “I intend for this committee to conduct the process in a manner that is consistent with case law that developed during the last decade, is beyond reproach and free from any hint of unconstitutional intent.”
Florida Democrats, who have been out of power for decades, were highly critical of the Republican-controlled proposals from 10 years ago and are skeptical going into this year’s redistricting.
“I think we should be as open and transparent and interactive as possible, given this truncated time frame that we’re talking about today,” said State Sen. Darryl Rouson (D- District 19).
One nonprofit group, FairDistricts Florida Movement, has said they are “not optimistic” about the promises of transparency from Republican leadership.
“I would like to be optimistic about this current redistricting cycle,” said Ellen Freidin, leader of the FairDistricts Florida Movement and CEO of FairDistricts Now, Inc. “So far, the Legislature has not given us any reason to be optimistic that the Fair Districts amendments will be adhered to. But we always remain hopeful and are looking forward, as I’m sure you are, to watching this process unfold.”
While the Senate committees for redistricting have already begun, the accompanying House committees begin this week.
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