New congressional and legislative district lines were advanced to the Senate floor on Thursday despite some criticism that more needs to be done to address majority-minority districts.

The Senate Reapportionment Committee approved proposals for revamped congressional districts (SB 102) and Senate districts (SJR 100). Also, 40 cards were drawn from a glass container that randomly designated each proposed Senate district with an odd or even number.

Districts designated odd will be up for election in 2022 and again in 2024, which could allow a number of freshman senators — including, Ileana Garcia, R-Miami, Jim Boyd, R-Brandenton, Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, and Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island — to serve an extra two years beyond the ordinary eight years required by voter-approved term limits. Districts with even numbers would have elections in 2022 and 2026.

All 40 Senate districts are up for election this year as part of the once-a-decade reapportionment process. During the 2024 and 2026 elections, Senate candidates will run for four-year terms.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said he believes the card draw was “equally” as random as a bingo cage and colored ping-pong balls that were used in 2012 to determine odd and even districts.

The full Senate is expected to take up the proposed maps Wednesday. While the Senate is drawing its own lines, it will ultimately have to reach agreement with the House on congressional lines that will then go to the governor.

The House is at least a week behind in its map-making process, as it has to draw 120 House districts. Similar to the Senate, the House is drawing its own map, along with a congressional map.

New districts need to be in place before qualifying for this year’s elections begins June 13.

Rodrigues wouldn’t say that he expects legal challenges. But he said he was advised during a conference in July that about 2,400 court cases were filed nationally during the last redistricting cycle.

“What I took away from that is, you’re more likely to have litigation than not,” Rodrigues said. “So, as you move forward, you prepare as if it’s going to happen but hope that it doesn’t.”

The Republican-dominated committee rejected an amendment by Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, to address a majority-minority Senate district in Northeast Florida, where populations have grown and shifted over the past decade. Gibson, who is Black, serves in such a district but cannot run again this year because of term limits.

“African-American districts, or those that give them the ability to elect the candidate of their choice, have not expanded in terms of square miles since the previous map was drawn,” Gibson said. “It’s impossible for that to be true.”

Gibson said she objected to both maps because, “When we have an opportunity to do better, we should.”

Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, voted against the Senate map, and Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, reversed his vote to “no” on the congressional lines. Rouson said he favors keeping Congressional District 14, a seat held by Democrat Kathy Castor, solely within Hillsborough County and avoiding splits of cities in Pinellas County that are currently in District 13.

Steven Mangual, an advocate for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, voiced opposition to both maps for failing to provide proportional representation for Hispanics, despite “massive” Hispanic population growth in Florida over the past decade.

Mangual also contended the redistricting process hasn’t been fully accessible to limited English-proficient citizens. He noted that sections of the legislative redistricting website are only available in English and that the number of Hispanic majority-minority districts is unchanged from the current lines.

“Spanish-dominant Floridians deserve to have their voices heard in meaningful ways and participate in this redistricting process,” Mangual said.

Asked about Mangual’s comments, Rodrigues replied, “I am 100 percent confident that we are fully compliant with all federal requirements, constitutional requirements and state statutes.”

— Stories brought to you courtesy of The West Volusia Beacon‘s subscription to News Service of Florida.


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