Redistricting could impact Black community in Tampa and St. Pete

Dianne Hart on Primary Election Day, 2018

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Redistricting is underway across Florida. Every ten years, census data is used to redraw boundary lines for all districts in Florida. This week in Tampa, Democratic State Representatives Susan Valdes and Dianne Hart hosted a town hall meeting on upcoming redistricting across the state. Hart is on the State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee and spoke about the process and maps they’re working with. She has concerns about splitting the Black community.

“The lines should not be zigzag all around,” Hart said. “What we sometimes hear is gerrymandering. But to keep districts whole, to be able to keep your cities whole.”

A community split

Each State House district should have about 175,000 residents. District lines can’t discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. With a massive influx of new residents in Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area, redistricting has gotten even more complicated and the current maps reflect that.

“In the city of Tampa, we are going to let a Black community darn near in half,” Hart said. “And then we’re going to pick up the Blacks over in South St. Pete to create that minority access.”

Hart says water is considered contiguous in the drawing of maps. That’s how some current maps could potentially combine Black communities in Tampa and St. Pete into one district. 

District communities could be combined

“St. Pete doesn’t want to come to Tampa to meet with their representatives or vice versa,” Hart said. “They’d like to have a representative in the same area, just as the people in Tampa, in that particular district, would like to have their very own representative.”

District numbers do change, Hart says, and that isn’t cause for concern. But what does matters is how counties are kept intact and how communities are maintained.

“The issue is how are lines drawn,” Hart said. “And whether or not cities are kept whole, and whether or not counties are kept whole as they draw the various boundary lines.”

This week the Florida Legislature begins its regular session. Hart says residents should watch the redistricting subcommittee’s meeting next Tuesday at 4 in the afternoon on the Florida Channel. She also encourages citizens to give feedback on proposed maps at visit floridaredistricting.gov. 

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