On Wednesday’s MidPoint show, host Shelley Reback and her guest co-host, political activist and veteran Tallahassee watcher, Susan Smith, took a deep dive into the redistricting process in Florida with Ellen Freidin.
Fair Districts Florida
Friedin was the campaign chair of Fair Districts Florida, the successful citizen petition drive to amend the Florida constitution in 2010 with amendments to require new, fair voting district lines be drawn for future elections. Freidin is now chair of the coalition of organizations comprising Fair Districts Now, a redistricting watchdog that aims to ensure that the once-every-ten-years process results in rational, fair and non-partisan Federal and State voting districts in Florida.
Though she’s skeptical that Democrats could take over the State legislature, even with fair redistricting, Freidin said, “If the maps are drawn fairly and the stakes are competitive, as they should be, we very well could see change.”
The redistricting process in the Florida Legislature
The Florida Senate began the process of re-mapping district lines again this week, and their work could have dramatic consequences for the balance of power in Congress.
With 2.7 million people moving into Florida in the last 10 years, where they settle and how they vote is significant.
Central Florida looks to gain one additional Congressional seat and how those district lines are drawn could endanger Democrat Darren Soto’s incumbency there. But, even with Florida’s large growth, seven of Florida’s congressional districts – three Republicans and four Democrats — are now below population targets and also likely to undergo some change.
The Congressional seat in south Pinellas County
One of them is St. Petersburg’s Democrat Charlie Crist’s district. Tampa Bay Times‘ political columnist, William March also joined us to explain how it is likely that in order to make the Crist district reach its population target, the Florida Senate will likely draw population from the more Republican area of North Pinellas into that district. This would make the district more competitive in the next election.
“Now, the district is already a swing district,” March noted. “Charlie Crist won re-election in the district last year by only 5 points. So, it wouldn’t take much…to nudge that district more Republican.”