This upcoming session will be particularly impactful to everyone in Florida. Once every 10 years the Florida Legislature is required to re-draw district lines to determine which voters participate in which elections for the U.S. House, State Senate and State House based on new population figures. Over the summer, lawmakers from across the state held public hearings to gather input from Floridians before drawing new political boundary lines.
Lawmakers traveled more than 4,000 miles to hold redistricting public hearings at 26 sites across Florida, collecting insight into communities and neighborhoods before districts are redrawn to comply with federal and state law. Nearly 5,000 people attended public hearings, and 1,700 individuals shared testimony regarding this process. The Senate Reapportionment Committee met two weeks ago to begin the important process of reviewing information collected throughout the state.
The Legislature will continue using interim committee weeks through December to react to public submissions, review various redistricting scenarios and discuss the merits associated with drawing district lines one way or another.
With proposed legislation expected by the first week of December, the end goal is to pass plans in early 2012 that meet the legal requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Plans will go under legal review from February through June of 2012.
The open and interactive redistricting process continues. You can help redraw our state's congressional and legislative districts using the same software and data that lawmakers and professional staff use. It is important to submit your ideas soon, so the Legislature can review and incorporate them into the proposed plans.
A deadline of Nov. 1 was selected for all proposals to be submitted by both lawmakers and the public. Visit the online District Builder tool, a full-featured web application complete with 2010 Census data, where you can navigate interactive maps, explore in-depth population characteristics and build districts. Learn more at www.flsenate.gov/redistricting.
State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto
Benacquisto represents Lehigh Acres, District 27 that stretches from the east to the west coast of Florida. - Ed.