Senators to discuss first staff-generated redistricting maps
Ray Rodrigues. Image via Colin Hackley.

Ray Rodrigues said maps are based on input from senators so far.

The first staff-drawn maps will be presented to Senate Reapportionment subcommittees next week.

Sen. Ray Rodrigues, chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, said based on direction from senators, staff has made “great progress.” He’s consulting now with leadership for the Congressional and Legislative redistricting subcommittees. The Congressional Reapportionment Subcommittee will meet Tuesday and the Legislative Reapportionment Subcommittee will meet Wednesday.

Draft maps were not immediately available.

“I recognize publishing staff-drawn maps several days in advance of the select subcommittee meetings will likely result in self-appointed redistricting experts from all political persuasions immediately flocking to the media seeking to push their own narrative about our staff work product,” Rodrigues wrote.

“As we know from our work in other areas of public policy, for-profit activists unlike legislators, don’t have notice requirements. I encourage Senators to be respectful of the work of our staff, whose directives came at the behest of this committee, rather than accepting analysis provided by organizations whose goals could be motivated by improper partisan intent.”

That’s sure to generate some discussion considering the maps come ahead of any type of public testimony outside hearings in Tallahassee. Democrats have called for some type of virtual testimony while conceding a tour of workshops around the state, like that conducted a decade ago, was unlikely.

Rodrigues did acknowledge that suggestion in his memo.

“The upcoming select subcommittee meetings will provide the appropriate, public forum for an explanation from staff, questions from senators, and comments from the public,” he wrote. “Additionally, as we prepare to review the staff-drawn maps, I wanted to also follow up on inquiries from senators regarding the possibility of scheduling virtual public testimony opportunities for their constituents.”

On that front, Rodrigues noted senators have the tools and capacity to conduct their own public workshops if such input feels important. He noted both Microsoft Teams and Zoom can be used to hold virtual events.

But he said court rulings regarding the Fair Districts amendment make no requirement for public workshops to be conducted by the Senate Reapportionment Committee itself.

He also noted the website allows not only for public comments but for individuals to submit their own proposals for maps for congressional, Senate and House districts.

“Again, as is the case with testimony before the committee and within the mapping application, staff is directed not to review or consider publicly submitted comments or suggestions for inclusion in their work product unless and until a Senator asks them to do so in writing,” Rodrigues said.

Whatever input gets collected, Rodrigues stressed the need to document all communication and keep records. And he said to be wary of forces determined to help partisan interests or incumbents, goals forbidden by the Fair Districts Amendment.

“Once again I remind you that in prior redistricting cycles, significant litigation has followed passage of new maps,” he wrote. “Sitting legislators may be compelled to produce records or be subject to questioning under oath about conversations with colleagues, with legislative staff, or with outside parties who may attempt to persuade the Legislature to pass maps that favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent. Senators should continue to insulate themselves from partisan-funded organizations and other  interests that may intentionally or unintentionally attempt to inappropriately influence the redistricting process,” Rodrigues said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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