The Florida Legislature is in the midst of one of their most important tasks: redistricting the state’s legislative and congressional districts. This process often attracts a high level of attention because it occurs once every decade, following the nation’s census counts. It can also become highly politicized as we’ve seen in states across the nation.
Though deep divisions are often byproducts of redistricting, the Florida Senate saw a bipartisan approach that led to a near unanimous vote for their state legislative maps and a 31-4 vote on their congressional maps. This is truly remarkable given the highly polarized political landscape we face in our nation.
As a former Florida House Majority Leader, I can say this is no easy feat. Unlike other major legislative packages, like passing a balanced budget, where legislative leaders can easily build coalitions for support, redistricting is much tougher as district lines change regardless of incumbency, resulting in incumbents having to make tough decisions about their political future. This results in high tensions and it’s clear with the Florida Senate vote, President Wilton Simpson and Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo were able to navigate those waters free from political intrusion and guide their chamber to a strong position.
In fact, RepresentUs, a national nonpartisan group, in partnership with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, scored the congressional map and it received a “B” score because of its partisan fairness. This is important as partisan gerrymandering would violate the Florida Constitution. This score reaffirms why the Florida Legislature should follow the lead of the Florida Senate with their approved map and come together to reconcile differences and pave a path forward that seeks unanimity.
Further, our democracy does best when consensus and compromise are achieved. It’s evident that the Florida Senate took this approach. When Floridians see that their elected leaders entrusted with this important task did so with broad support then voters will trust the process and outcome.
This year’s redistricting lines will last for the next 10 years, which is why it must be done right and be able to withstand the judicial review as prescribed in the Constitution. President Simpson and the Senate leadership from both parties should be commended for their embrace of pragmatism over polarization with their redistricting maps.
Carlos Lopez-Cantera was Florida’s lieutenant governor from 2014-219 and previously served in the Florida House of Representatives, including as majority leader from 2010-2012.