After Census 2020 a new district is being added to Florida’s 27 districts. The Florida Legislature is drawing new boundaries for the  now 28 congressional districts, reshaping Florida’s congressional delegation. The redrawing of congressional districts can end political careers and relegate entire communities to near political irrelevance.

At this important juncture when the district boundaries are being drawn for the next ten years the community must be vigilant. Representation of the community can be scattered, stripping them of their voice. 

Each of Florida’s 28 United States Representatives and 160 state legislators are elected from political divisions called districts. District lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States census. The idea is to make sure one state senator or member of Congress represents the same number of people as another senator or congressman. The one-person, one-vote doctrine is set by the U.S. Supreme Court: each district needs to have the same number of people so the vote from a Boca Raton resident is equal to the vote of someone who lives in Orlando, Panama City or Naples.

Politicians want to give themselves districts that are easy to win, and political parties want districts that will give them as many victories as possible. Using census data and records of past voting patterns in different communities, the map-makers can create districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic or overwhelmingly Republican.

 “The Congressmen watch districting lines like hawks,” says Digvijay ‘Danny’ Gaekwad to India Currents. District lines can make them win or lose the election. Digvijay ‘Danny’ Gaekwad, has been called a major player in GOP politics. He has been instrumental in getting Florida’s Indian American community interested in standing up for their interests. We understand the importance of political representation,” says Gaekwad. “Changes in law, like in the case of visas, overnight changed opportunities. If we are not at the table we will be on the menu.”

“At the last Presidential election there were 82,000 Indian Americans in Florida. However I am sure the number is higher. Many members of our community fail to get a driver license in Florida. That is essential in order to be counted as a resident,” says Gaekwad. To establish residency in Florida this crucial step needs to be taken. You can register to vote once you have a license from the state.

The new Congressional district 28 has been mapped by the Florida state Legislature to be a primarily White district, said Kira Romero-Craft, director for the South East region of Latino Justice at a panel discussion on Jan. 13, organized by Ethnic Media Services. The proposed state Senate district map would give Republicans a 23-17 district advantage over Democrats, and allot the party 16 of the 28 available seats in the House, including the new District 28, she pointed out. 

“We need to have the opportunity to elect representatives of our choice,” she said.

The party in power, in this case Republican, can craft districts to maximize its voters’ clout by “packing” and “cracking” – drawing district boundaries so as to scatter opposing voters so widely they cannot win majorities (cracking) or/and concentrate a large number of the opposing party’s voters in a handful of districts (“packing”). 

They can’t be too partisan, says Danny Gaekwad. Any brazen unfairness means the courts will step in.  Final approval of the maps rests with the Florida Supreme Court.

 On Thursday January 13th, the Florida Senate’s redistricting committee approved a proposed congressional map near-unanimously, with the only dissenting votes coming from two Democrats. The full Senate is expected to vote on it as early as next week. Once the Senate and House pass a map, it heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for approval.

There is fear that Gov Santis may veto this map as he has tabled a more Republican friendly map on Sunday January 16th. This map eliminates the 5th Congressional District which has nearly 44 percent black voters and the 10th Congressional District that is also represented by a black congressman. This is a rare move by a governor. Gov DeSantis is up for reelection this year and is rumored to be the 2024 Presidential candidate.

Father Jose Rodriguez, Pastor of the Jesus of Nazareth Episcopal Church, said the redistricting efforts by the state of Florida are a conscious effort to erase the voting power of Latinos. Voice of communities of color is being silenced by dwindling their numbers through manipulation of district boundaries. 

“It’s making it look like we don’t exist. They’re making us disappear off the map,” he said.

Also read

Cracking and Packing Of Districts Before The Next Elections

I’ll Safeguard Voter Rights To The Ballot Box, Says Kamala Harris

Ritu Marwah was a 2020 California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism.

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. She won the 2023 Ethnic Media Services award for outstanding international reporting;...