Let The Redistricting Games Begin

Under The Hood

Image from FloridaRedistricting.gov: Population deviations from ideal under current state House boundaries.

Florida lawmakers started the redistricting process for state and federal jurisdictions this week, and with that unveiled a new public tool where the public can envision their own ways to carve apart the Sunshine State. While delays in the census likely mean no massive listening tour like that seen in 2011, there’s more ability than ever to pick apart data.

And the first taste of data gives a little indication at least of what changes must happen with South Florida’s lines. If no one knew it before, Lakewood Ranch has massively grown as Sarasota’s population remained roughly static. We know Venice and North Port’s population within the city limits boomed, and we know Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach suffered major losses in resident counts.

It’s all going to factor into the process of redrawing Florida’s political districts for when voters elect representation next year. That said, with 120 state House districts, 40 state Senate districts and now 28 U.S. House districts — a boost of one — it’s anyone’s guess how much disruption in the Sarasota-Manatee area occurs. It doesn’t help that what politicians say and what they do has probably less relationship in the redistricting process than any other public undertaking.

But here’s what the maps at first blush tell us about local districts based on the lines that exist now.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, represents too many constituents though U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has a constituency that’s just about right. The Venice and North Port growth matters with Steube, as his U.S. House District 17 covers a lot of other areas with little to no growth. Still, even divvying up Florida’s population 28 ways instead of 27, the district has 10,734 more people than necessary. But in Buchanan’s U.S. House District 16, which spans all of Manatee and north Sarasota, there’s 114,826 more people on his constituency roster than he should have. The Legislature must balance all U.S. House districts down to one resident, so that’s a lot of weight to shed.

No surprise, there’s a similar difference between districts for state Sens. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, and Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota. Boyd, in Manatee-centric Senate District 21, represents 49,088 too many people as things stand now, and Gruters’ District 23 has 3,626 more constituents than it ideally should. With state districts, lawmakers only will try to get populations balanced within a couple percentage points. Boyd today has a a district that spills north into Hillsborough County while Gruters’ boundaries wrap around part of Charlotte County to the south. It may be that the districts remain centered around the Bradenton and Sarasota communities respectively. Or shake-ups elsewhere in the state could dramatically impact the map.

Then there’s the House, where the imbalanced growth in the region most readily presents itself. Locally, Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, has been the voice of too many people In his Lakewood Ranch-centered district. As of the 2020 Census, he represented 42,409 more people in House District 73 than the 179,485 residents that would be in a perfect 120th-of-Florida’s-population district. That means it’s oversized more than 20%, one of the worst imbalances in the state.  Rep. James Buchanan, R-Venice, also has too many constituents in House District 74, but just 13,765 too many.

Meanwhile, the other house districts in the region are all too small. State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, D-St. Petersburg, has 6,328 too few constituents in House District 70, a majority minority district. State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, has House District 71 underpopulated by 7,802 people. And state Rep. Fiona McFarland, R-Sarasota, has 7,760 fewer residents than the Census thinks she should.

With a majority minority district (Rayner-Goolsby’s) and a swing district (McFarland's) both in need of people and two neighboring GOP-leaning districts with voters to spare, one can imagine a lot of creative swishes around the edges taking place this year. But then, lawmakers are bound by a Fair Districts amendment, and at least outwardly seem in no rush to test it.

Go to floridaredistricting.gov if you have your own idea what should happen from here.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ MEDIA.

Image from FloridaRedistricting.gov: Population deviations from ideal under current state House boundaries.

« View The Saturday Sep 25, 2021 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

The Upside of Life Out of Power

The Upside of Life Out of Power

Jacob Ogles | Oct 23, 2021

Turning Your Passion Into Your Profession

Turning Your Passion Into Your Profession

Dr. Larry Thompson | Oct 23, 2021

Scanning the Horizon: The Gulf Coast Beyond COVID

Scanning the Horizon: The Gulf Coast Beyond COVID

Mark Pritchett | Oct 16, 2021

Take the Survey on the American Rescue Plan

Take the Survey on the American Rescue Plan

Christine Robinson | Oct 16, 2021