State lawmakers are starting to draw new maps for the once-a-decade redistricting process and they have a mountain of material to sort through from Floridians.But the question remains: Will lawmakers use those ideas or dump them into a political black hole?This week the deadline passed for people to submit their proposed maps to the Legislature. The final count is 153 maps.“The idea is to not just have one map, but to have multiple options for members of the Legislature to look at, citizens across the state of Florida and all the interest groups that care about redistricting in Florida,” Weatherford said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and top legislative leaders are saying that redistricting and the state’s budget shortfall will dominate the upcoming session of the Florida Legislature.But heading into a critical election year it appears that legislators may shy away from other contentious issues during the session that starts in January.
Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach county will see their clout erode slightly in the state legislature because of redistricting as the number of Senate seats declines because of population shifts. In the state Senate the region will go from 12.5 (13) seats to 11.8 (12) while the number of legislative seats declines by 2.1.In the last decade, the region has also seen a sharp increase in minority populations, specifically the percentage of Hispanics went form 31.2 percent in 2000 to 41.3 percent in 2010.
It is literally the most divisive issue in the politically charged process of redrawing the face of Florida politics: dividing minority groups among new congressional and legislative districts so that their representation is not diluted.Central Florida will be ground zero for how lawmakers acknowledge a burgeoning Hispanic population without unconstitutionally diminishing the rights of blacks and other minorities.More than half of the state’s growth in the past decade — 55 percent — came from an increase in the Hispanic population, with a majority coming along the Interstate 4 corridor. TheCentral Florida counties of Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Lake and Seminole led the state in population growth.Of the 541,000 additional people in the region, 267,000 were Hispanics.
Florida state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, ignited a firestorm of criticism when he said congressional districts should not be drawn to benefit potentially illegal Hispanic immigrants and that the state should first check their citizenship.
Here’s what Hays said at an Oct. 18, 2011, meeting of the Senate reapportionment committee:
“Before we design a district anywhere in the state of Florida for Hispanic voters, we need to ascertain that they are citizens of the United States. We all know there are many Hispanic speaking people in Florida that are not legal, and I just don’t think that it’s right that we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting anyhow. If we know registered voters are people who have proven their citizenship then that’s a completely different story, but I’m not aware of any proof of citizenship necessary before you register to vote.”
Reapportionment is a once-in-a-decade process that divides the U.S. House’s 435 seats among the states based on the results of the U.S. census. In 2012, Florida will add two new congressional seats as part of that realignment. It’s up to Hays and the other members of the state House and Senate to redraw the maps to include the two new seats.
What Hays might have been getting at in his comments (we don’t know for sure because his spokesman said he didn’t want to comment) is that the census attempts to include all people living in the United States, including illegal immigrants, children and legal immigrants who cannot vote. So while some people are talking about a proposal to draw a Hispanic-majority congressional district in Central Florida — an area that has seen considerable growth in the Puerto Rican population — Hays was at least suggesting it was possible that many people living there might be doing so illegally. Therefore, according to his thinking, they should not have a seat drawn to benefit them.
As part of ProPublica’s investigation into the reality of redistricting, they’ve created, yes, a music video. For more on the shenanigans in the video, see their Devil’s Dictionary . For more on the secret money influencing redistricting, see their investigation, The Hidden Hands in Redistricting .
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