Fair Districts Coalition questions whether redistricting drafts undercut minority access districts

Do draft plans account for appropriate minority effective districts based on the latest population counts?

The Fair Districts Coalition issued a letter to Florida senators asking whether enough research into minority protection has gone into mapmaking. The letter also asks if research is being done to help the Legislature draw lines to protect Black and Hispanic access.

“We have not heard you say a word in public about whether you have performed a Racially Polarized Voting (RPV) analysis or hired any expert to do such a study,” the letter states. “This is essential to help you assess potential performance of districts with substantial minority population.”

The letter notes University of California-Los Angeles professor Jeffrey Lewis testified he was conducting such an analysis in Florida. That case involved lawmakers being accused of secretly using studies to craft maps that made it less likely Black candidates would win elections, according to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Lewis said his research in North Carolina was conducted hastily. He said he worked for extended periods in other jurisdictions.

“Has your committee used his work in drawing Senate and Congressional maps? If not, why not? We ask that you immediately make public his analysis or any other RPV study you have, including the data used in the study (in downloadable form),” the letter reads.

The letter arrived hours before the Senate Reapportionment Committee meets for potentially the last time.

“We wonder why you are limiting your examination of minority voting rights to the existing minority districts,” the letter reads. “Certainly, the minority population has grown since the last maps were drawn. There may be other opportunities to afford Black and Hispanic voters their rights to participate fully in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Have you explored the possibility that other minority districts could be created?”

The letter echoes concerns raised already by the League of Women Voters (LWV) Florida in meetings earlier this week. LWV President Cecile Swoon suggested to lawmakers they were wrongly relying on baseline maps built on the 2010 Census — rather than the 2020 Census — to determine how many majority-minority or effective minority districts needed to exist on congressional and legislative maps.

Senate Reapportionment Committee Chair Ray Rodrigues addressed this in an extensive interview with Florida Politics.

“Our counsel believes our legal obligation is to avoid retrogression as measured off of your current baseline,” Rodrigues said. “That’s why we feel like we’re meeting the legal standards. If the League of Women Voters disagrees with that, then I’m sure that’s a matter that will be litigated in the future. What we do with the 2020 Census cannot retrograde from what was done in the 2010 census. And we believe we’ve achieved that objective.”

The Coalition letter asserted that it’s not enough to make sure minority representation isn’t lost. Instead, the letter argues lawmakers should analyze the appropriate level of minority access warranted by the 2020 Census figures.

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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