Broward County enlisting FIU to draw new district maps

For the first time, Broward County has academics directing its redistricting effort.

Much like the state’s redistricting process now underway, Broward County is redrawing County Commission districts to accommodate population shifts shown in the 2020 U.S. Census.

But unlike the state process that puts legislators in charge of maps, Broward County is for the first time tapping university personnel to submit plans to county commissioners for approval.

Florida International University is holding four public meetings this week to gather opinions on how to best draw districts to uphold the “one person, one vote” principle.

The first meeting on Thursday in Miramar drew about 50 people, said Maria Ilcheva, assistant director of planning and operations at FIU’s Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center, a research institute that provides policy solutions to organizations in South Florida.

“We will look at the current district boundaries, compare them with the population changes that have occurred over the last decade and try to make sure that we follow these principles that Broward County has established for us” in drawing the new district boundaries, Ilcheva said.

The whole county grew about 11%, by about 200,000 people, over the last 10 years. All districts added residents, but the fastest-growing district among the county’s nine is in its northwest corner bordering the Everglades and Palm Beach County. Roughly, Coral Springs, Parkland and Tamarac comprise District 3 and grew 15.8%, or about 31,000 new residents.

Ilcheva said she and her fellow consultants want to hear from as many as possible to determine how the new districts should look.

“The more people know about this and are involved, the better these districts will be drawn,” Ilcheva said.

Thursday night, for example, FIU’s panel heard elected representatives in Miramar think the city should not be broken up and represented in different County Commission districts, she said.

“We’ll try to keep district shapes in some recognizable, rational shape,” she said. “It’s also about the racial and ethnic makeup of neighborhoods. Natural and man-made boundaries play a part. We’ll try, for example, to follow major roadways.”

The U.S. Census found that Broward County is almost evenly divided in its racial and ethnic diversity, with 31% Hispanic, 30% Black and 35% White residents.

“They are dispersed across the county — it’s not like they are concentrated in one district,” Ilcheva said. “And we can say that complicates things.”

The meetings are going to be:

— 7 p.m., today, Hollywood Branch Library, 2600 Hollywood Blvd.

— 7 p.m., Tuesday, West Regional Library, 8601 W. Broward Blvd.,

— 7 p.m., Wednesday, through a virtual meeting on Zoom at this link.

— 7 p.m., Thursday at E. Pat Larkins Community Center, 520 NW 3rd Street, Pompano Beach.

— 10 a.m., Oct. 16, Champions Hall Community Center, 6601 Boulevard of Champions, North Lauderdale.

The panel is also taking emailed input at [email protected].

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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