FLORIDA IS AT RISK OF GERRYMANDERING PRACTICES AS REDISTRICTING STARTS
The 2020 census was a momentous population count for the U.S. as it will determine how many representatives each state will have in Congress as well as redraw district lines across the U.S. These changes will be in effect for the next ten years. With the demographic growth in our country over the last decade being due primarily to communities of color, redistricting can quickly deprive those same communities of political power – subverting democracy.
Following the 2020 U.S. Census, Florida is set to redraw legislative and congressional district lines on January 11, 2022. Florida has apportioned 28 congressional districts, one more than its number after the 2010 census. Gaining an additional district changes the political landscape in the battleground state of Florida and even causes lines to be shifted across South Florida.
The diversity percentage of the U.S. as a whole increased from 54.9% to 61.1% between 2010 and 2020 according to census findings. The diversity percentage of the state of Florida, on the other hand, increased from 59.1% to 64.1% during the same period.
The threat of gerrymandering in order to limit Black and Latinx representation is very real for Floridians as we as a nation have seen this trend before. Gerrymandering, the manipulation of the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one party or class, has often been used to deprive communities of color of political power – subverting democracy.
In the wake of the first map release, the anti-gerrymandering group RepresentUs, who work with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, gave an “F” grade to the House’s proposal congressional maps of Florida’s redistricting, stating that they were “poor for the category, could be much better.”
The recent case of United States vs. Texas showed a violation of the Voting Rights Act for the world to see. This violation is predicted to happen here in Florida unless we ensure that state legislatures abide by the fundamental principles of democracy and do not silence voters’ voices in any way.
According to the Department of Justice, “Texas grew by nearly 4 million residents, and the minority population represents 95% of that growth (between 2010 and 2020).” The expansion of the House population from 36 to 38 prompted some unscrupulous politicians to redraw new districts while misrepresenting and expanding the white majority.
Most people do not realize redistricting is as important as voting because it shapes the future political landscape. ??There are many steps Americans can take to ensure that our voices are heard. We must vote in local elections, attend town hall meetings, call our congresspersons to voice our concerns, and always stay informed. We must share with others how they, too, can contribute to protecting our basic right as Americans to have accurate and fair representation in Congress.
America has seen the Voting Rights Act become systematically weakened by gerrymandering practices time and again. Communities of color already face numerous obstacles to meaningful participation in the political process. Redistricting must accurately reflect Florida’s most recent diversity growth to represent the population fairly.