Florida desperately needed a resolution to its long and costly congressional redistricting, and thankfully the state Supreme Court delivered last week when it sided with the Florida League of Women Voters, which contested the Legislature’s plan.
The Legislature spent $11 million to defend a redistricting plan that was too Republican leaning. The Supreme Court reset the scales so that more districts favor Democrats. The court decision, however, is likely to be challenged by Rep. Corinne Brown (D) and others.
Latinos have a concern of their own, given that their numbers were reduced by six percentage points to 33 percent in District 9, currently held by Democrat Alan Grayson, who is running for Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat.
Six points is statistically significant. It may impact state Sen. Darren Soto’s campaign for the district, also contested by former Grayson staff member Susannah Randolph. Soto, who is Puerto Rican, remained optimistic.
“I opposed the reduction in the Hispanic vote,” Soto said. “That being said, I believe we still have a great opportunity to win!”
Randolph’s response implied that Soto’s opposition could have been more vigorous.
“I am surprised that no one in the state Senate, which was the only chamber that allowed legislators to propose changes to the maps, filed an amendment to keep the Hispanic community together in the congressional maps,” Randolph said.
Not Your Time or Turn
It’s the second time local Hispanics were told “wait, it’s not your time or turn” in a redistricting case, following an Orange County Commission case more than a year ago in which the county and the court tamped down the burgeoning Hispanic population in Districts 3 and 4, preventing the creation of a “Hispanic district.”
The experience remains painful for a lot of Hispanics who aspire to see themselves represented in local office. For a good chunk of the Puerto Rican population, who are half or more of Hispanics, that person has to be Puerto Rican.
But here’s the thing: The growing Latino population will make up for the artificial cut by the courts, tipping the districts more toward Hispanics, especially as Puerto Ricans, who are citizens with no barrier to voting, continue to migrate to Central Florida.
For instance, Orange County Districts 3 and 4 include the Hispanic southeast quadrant and each is more than 40 percent Hispanic. Congressional District 9, meanwhile, spans all of Osceola and portions of Orange and Polk counties. Osceola is half Hispanic, while the number in Polk is 20 percent. The Orange swath overlaps with county Districts 3 and 4.
By the 2020 census the numbers are bound to be much higher. So while Hispanics have been instructed for a second time to “wait, it’s not your time or turn,” that philosophy will not hold.
˜˜María T. Padilla – Editor