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Florida post-census reapportionment begins in fall with pre-2022 session hearings

022018 Florida House assault weapons ban photo
In this 2013 photo, the Florida State Capitol and Florida House Office are shown in Tallahassee, Fla. On Tuesday, the state House voted down the motion to to consider a bill to ban assault rifles, 36-71. (Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons)

Florida post-census reapportionment begins in fall with pre-2022 session hearings

July 07, 11:00 AM July 07, 11:00 AM

Florida will add a 28th congressional seat for the November 2022 mid-term elections that will be created by the Republican-controlled state Legislature during its 2022 session.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, announced last week that Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, will serve as chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee in spearheading the chamber’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process.

“With the census data necessary to begin the map drawing process expected early this fall, I anticipate the Senate will begin holding committee meetings related to redistricting when interim committee meetings resume in Tallahassee this September,” Simpson wrote. “As such, I will move forward with additional appointments to the Senate Committee on Reapportionment later this summer.”

The U.S. Census Bureau has indicated congressional reapportionment will award Florida another seat in Congress – meaning the state’s 27 districts will be reconfigured into 28.

Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, chairs the House Redistricting Committee which, unlike its Senate counterpart, is a standing panel, although inactive.

The House committee has two subpanels, the Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee and State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee.

House Speaker Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, is expected to man the committees in the coming weeks.

Florida is one of 34 states where Legislature draws state legislative districts and one of 39 where state lawmakers also craft congressional districts.

Under Florida’s redistricting/reapportionment process, the Senate draws the 40 Senate districts and the House draws 120 House districts via joint resolutions not subject to gubernatorial veto.

Congressional districts are adopted as regular legislation and subject to gubernatorial veto.

All districts approved by lawmakers are automatically submitted to the Florida Supreme Court for review.

The Florida Constitution requires all districts be contiguous, “not conflict with minority rights … be compact and utilize existing political and geographical boundaries where feasible.”

Districts cannot be drawn to “favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent” but, with the GOP holding a 78-42 House advantage and 24-16 majority in the Senate, reapportionment will be “a difficult process” for outnumbered Democrats, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in April.

Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat and a 2022 gubernatorial contender, Fried conceded, “We know we don’t have the votes to stop a redistricting plan. Unfortunately, the courts have shifted significantly in the last 10 years. And so, it will be difficult” to prevent Republicans from using the process to benefit them.

There are nearly 21.54 million people living in Florida, 14.6% more than a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Apportionment Results released April 26.

Florida gained 2.7 million residents during the decade, according to the Bureau, and is one of six states adding new congressional districts in 2022. Florida also increased its electoral college votes from 29 to 30.

In February, the U.S. Census Bureau announced final results won’t be delivered until September. The bureau originally expected to deliver data to states in February.

In a June letter, Gov. Ron DeSantis and 14 other Republican Governors urged the Bureau to expedite the process.

“This delay places an unreasonable burden on our states and undermines public trust in the foundations of our democratic republic,” they wrote.

Florida was slow to gear up for the April 1-Sept. 30, 2020 census. After maintaining for months the headcount was best left to more 120 local committees, DeSantis in January 2020 appointed Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez to lead a 19-member Florida Complete Count Committee. That came after revelations that an estimated 200,670-person undercount in the 2000 Census cost Florida about $225 million annually, or more than $2.5 billion over the decade.

Simpson’s appointment of Rodrigues to lead the Senate Reapportionment Committee was one of many 2022 committee appointments outlined in a nine-page list posted Friday.

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