Lawmakers debate over congressional redistricting in the state

A high-stakes congressional redistricting process is underway in Florida.

The redistricting process is being led by a team of both state Republicans and Democrats, including State Sen. Ray Rodrigues (Fla-R), who represents a portion of Southwest Florida and is the committee chair. It’s expected to give more power to the Republican party in the state.

The stakes are high, and there are rules lawmakers must follow.

For example: Congressional districts must be contiguous, equal in population and not favor any one party over another.

That is where the fighting comes in between state lawmakers because the state’s Republican party has most of the power when it comes to redistricting.

“In essence, what they are establishing is a blueprint for elections 10 years from now into the next decade,” said Peter Bergerson, an FGCU professor of political science and public administration.

That process starts with the census, which shows Florida’s population is booming. Southwest Florida is growing too.

“Most of the fastest growth has taken place along the I-4 corridor,” said Jonathan Martin, the chairman of the Lee County Republican Party. “Lee County, from looking at the numbers, we outpaced the growth in the state of Florida statewide.”

That growth means Florida will get a new congressional district. The Republican-led state legislature must decide where that district will go and how other districts will change.

“Legislators will start with the existing congressional district boundary lines,” Bergerson said. “And they then will also have the number of people that are’s supposed to be.”

That means there should be approximately 770,000 people per congressional district.

Ten years ago, Florida lawmakers ended up in court. Maps drawn by the Republican-led legislature did not withstand the legal test.

Gabriele Spuckes with the Democratic Party of Lee County hopes this time will be different.

“Our legislators themselves, have, you know, the obligation to ensure that fair and equal process for all people, and that’s basically, you know, I hope that that’s what they follow, and we’ll see what happens,” Spuckes said.

The state’s redistricting committee wants input from Floridians about this process. Lawmakers set up website Florida Redistricting, where you can submit your suggestions and even draw your own map.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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