Senate leaders issue rare bipartisan call for deliberate, fair redistricting
Kathleen Passidomo and Lauren Book have competing interests in the midterms.

Pass Book
The first maps of the cycle go public Wednesday.

Senate leaders issued a rare bipartisan message on the redistricting process Tuesday. In short: Stick to the law.

In a joint memo from Senate President Wilton Simpson, Senate President-Designate Kathleen Passidomo and Democratic Leader Lauren Book, the legislative leaders called on senators to carefully scrutinize and deliberate on proposed boundaries for congressional and House districts and the lines determining where Senators themselves will run.

“As Senators, we are frequently presented with situations where we must set aside our personal views and make decisions in keeping with the oath we each took to defend the constitution and laws of this state,” the memo reads. “Nowhere is this responsibility more challenging (than) in redistricting given that some of us may ultimately decide to vote for a map knowing the realities of that map are such that we will never be reelected. Some of us may choose to defer seeking reelection. Still others may decide to run against a current colleague who we know and respect.”

The establishment of political boundaries in the coming midterms, and for the decade to come, could have serious consequences in the chamber itself. All Senate districts must go up for election after being redrawn next year. If Republicans following the 2022 midterms control a majority of the upper chamber’s 40 seats, Passidomo is set to become Senate President next November. Should Democrats win a majority, the gavel instead goes to Book.

The message comes a day before Senate Reapportionment Committee staff plans to release the first draft maps generated within the Legislature for the once-a-decade redistricting process.

“We all understand and expect the Wednesday release of staff-produced legislative and congressional maps to trigger quite a few questions and comments,” the memo states. “We are certain some of this feedback will be productive and appropriate to consider as we undertake our once-in-a-decade responsibility to produce constitutional maps. However, we also want to make sure Senators are aware that you may receive questions that have nothing to do with the constitutional standards we have sworn an oath to uphold and are instead full of political analysis and queries about our own future political ambitions.”

Senators involved in the redistricting process for weeks have received briefings on compliance with Florida’s Fair Districts amendment and on following other federal and state laws, including the Voting Rights Act. The Senate Redistricting Committee on Oct. 18 issued guidance to staff on how to approach the cartography.

“We expect staff to release draft maps that comply with both Tier 1 and Tier 2 constitutional standards, as unanimously directed by the Committee on Reapportionment,” the memo reads. “The directives issued to staff specifically state: ‘To comply with the Tier One standard related to intent to favor or disfavor an incumbent, you are directed to draw districts without the use of any residence information of any sitting member of the Florida Legislature or Congress and to draw districts without regard to the preservation of existing district boundaries.’”

That hasn’t stopped all criticism. The Fair Districts Coalition hours before the memo’s release published a report card harshly assessing the process thus far and giving lawmakers mostly failing grades.

But legislative leaders say it’s ultimately the rule of law that must govern the process.

“Our responsibility as Senators is to pass a constitutional map. Future political ambitions in this chamber or elsewhere should be of no consideration as we review the work of our staff,” the memo concludes. “Therefore, we would encourage Senators not to opine on the staff-produced maps in the context of your own political future. The time for campaigning is coming, but the time for legislating is now, which requires fulfilling our responsibility to pass constitutional maps.”

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]

One comment

  • Alex

    November 10, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    We already know Republicans lie.

    Fair Districts has given them an f.

    Republicans will continue to push every possible boundary that they can to cheat you out of your vote.

    They’re afraid and they’re desperate to keep control.

Comments are closed.


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