According to the 2010 census, the population of Orlando, FL has increased significantly over the past ten years, jumping from 185,951 in 2000 to a whopping 238,916 in 2010. This change in population has not occurred evenly over the city’s six districts, and new districts must be drawn as a remedy. This process is called redistricting.

Redistricting seeks to equalize representation in malapportioned districts. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, two landmark United States Supreme Court decisions, the idea of equal representation came about through the notion of one person, one vote: “Whatever the means of accomplishment, the overriding objective must be substantial equality of population among the various districts, so that the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight to that of any other citizen in the State.”

In order to achieve a more even and representative portrait of Orlando, the Orlando City Council appointed a nine member board to handle the task of redistricting. In coming up with a proposed plan, the Redistricting Advisory Board also sought and received the input of many other Orlando citizens.

In the end, after dozens of meetings, emails, and letters, the Board submitted a proposed plan to the Orlando City Council. The plan seems to roughly divide Orlando’s population evenly over the six districts. The proposed figures for districts one through six respectively are: 38,325; 38,848; 39,455; 41,693; 38,622; and 41,973.

Drawing district lines is not an easy process. Along with numbers, other factors are taken into consideration in order to cater to different communities and their interests. As floridaredistricting.org notes, “Those districts tell the stories of their communities.”

In telling the stories of the six Orlando districts, the Board disclosed that they also made the following considerations, which are typical of redistricting calculations:

1. Creating compact districts

2. Neutral consideration to political parties

3. Drawing natural boundaries

4. Keeping neighborhoods in the same district

5. Keeping communities of interests together

6. Maintaining the core areas of other districts

Some are hoping that the plan will pass and secure Orlando’s first Hispanic-majority district. Under the proposed plan, district two is 52.7 percent Hispanic. This should not come as surprise because over the past 10 years Orlando’s Hispanic population has increased approximately eight percent city wide and approximately fifteen percent in district two.

Others do not look as favorably upon this plan. While Orlando stands to gain a Hispanic-majority district, it also stands to lose one of its two Black-majority districts. District six is a Black-majority district, but under the proposed plan, the black population of district six will fall to 42.7 percent. This would be the first time in 30 years that the black population of district six would fall below half.

So, what happens next?

Over the next few months, the Florida legislature will review the plan. After months of review, if accepted, the plans will be enacted between January 10, 2012 and March 9, 2012.

Student contributor from William and Mary Law School.

permalink: http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/2011/11/30/fl-redistricting/

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