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Frequently Asked Questions

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Pic pinellas1.png

What is Redistricting?  
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The districts from which local officials are elected are required to be “as nearly equal in proportion to their respective  populations as practicable" or possible.  Redistricting is the process by which differences in the population of commission, council or board districts are equalized by adjusting district boundaries, and furthers the principal of “one person, one vote” and the provisions of the Voting Rights Act.  

 

Requirements for redistricting of County Commission districts are contained in the Florida Constitution, and Florida Statutes provide direction for both County Commissions and School Districts.  Redistricting requirements for cities, some charter counties and special districts may also be found in their charters or special acts.   

 

View the presentations to the Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities on redistricting.

Who performs Redistricting?
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The legislative body of the jurisdiction (county commission, school board, city council, etc.) approves revisions to its district boundaries. Some city or county charters may provide for a citizen advisory body that will make recommendations to the governing body.

When was the 2020 Census Data made available?
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Census data is required to be made available to state and local governments one year after "census day" or by March 31, 2021.  However, the Bureau of the Census stated that the 2020 data would not be available until September 2021, primarily due to problems caused by the COVID pandemic.  The Bureau released data for Reapportionment on April 26, 2021 (required to be released by December 2020) and the 2020 data required by P.L. 94-171 for redistricting on August 12, 2021.  That data was re-released in a more user friendly format in late September 2021. 

What are some Common Criteria used in Redistricting?

There are several criteria commonly used in the redistricting process. They are considered in total and balanced with each other.  However, the dominant criterion is population.   

Equal (almost) in population.  Individual districts should be as nearly equal in population as is practicable.  “Population” means residents, not registered voters. “Nearly equal” means that the population of individual districts should be as close to the "ideal" or average district size as is practicable.  Generally, a district size of less that 3% over or under the average or ideal is an acceptable goal to pursue. 

What about Prison Population?  In Calvin v. Jefferson Board of Commissioners (2016) US District Judge Mark Walker ruled that counting the population of persons incarcerated in prison can violate the principle of "one person, one vote" and rejected Jefferson County's 2013 redistricting plan.  Persons incarcerated in state (or federal) prisons do not have the ability to vote in elections, are unable to participate in society and are housed in a facility that receives no services from the local government.  Especially in smaller jurisdictions, including persons incarcerated in a prison in a district's population disproportionately affects voting population and gives voters in that district greater political clout at the expense of those in other districts.  

 

Don’t dilute minority voting strength.  Generally, if there is a location where a significant number of minority residents live, their ability to vote as a block should not be diluted by either dividing that population into two or more districts (termed “cracking”) or, if there is a significant minority population in two districts, moving that population into a single district (termed “packing”).  However, note that the provisions of the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, and of the Voting Rights Act, as applied to race in the redistricting process are in a state of flux within the courts at the present time.

Use census blocks.  Data from the US Bureau of the Census is updated every 10 years by surveying the population of the United States.  The smallest unit within which that information is tabulated is “blocks.”  Data from the Bureau of the Census is presumed to be correct and therefore helps to avoid disagreements over data accuracy.  It is easily integrated with commonly used redistricting software programs.  If necessary, census block data may be supplemented with or modified by other sources of demographic information, although that is typically not considered until the later years of a decennial census cycle.  When using supplemental data or methodologies, one must demonstrate valid reasons as to how and why such data was used. 

Compact and contiguous.  Districts should be relatively compact and contiguous.  Unusual, “bizarre” or serpentine district shapes that are created without furthering a valid underlying public policy purpose should be avoided. 

 

Significant natural and man-made boundaries.  Where possible, district boundaries should follow boundaries that are easily understood by electors, like major roads, waterbodies or parklands.

Preserve the cores of existing districts.  The boundaries of the new districts may seek to retain their existing boundaries and cores of the existing districts to the extent possible.

 

Avoid splitting communities of interest.  District boundaries should seek to avoid splitting communities that have similar interests (e.g. neighborhoods or cities) where possible. 

Party Affiliation.  While the party affiliation of registered voters may be considered in the redistricting process, it is commonly not used at the local level.

Do the 2010 amendments to the Florida Constitution on redistricting apply to local governments?
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No.  Sections 20 and 21 of Article III of the Florida Constitution apply to the Legislature when redrawing its own district boundaries and those of Florida's Congressional Delegation.  However, the policies of those amendments may be used to guide the redistricting process at the local level.

What about the provisions of HB 411, which passed during the 2023 Legislative Session? 
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Yes.  HB 411, now Chapter 2023-101, Laws of Florida, applies to local governments.  Among other things, it provides that redistricting plans may not be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor an incumbent or candidate for office based on residential address, although how this provision interacts with federal law and traditional redistricting criteria is not yet clear.  The legislation also provides that changes to districting plans may not be adopted less than 270 days prior to the jurisdiction's next general election.

 

                                                        Copyright KSA  2024

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