WASHINGTON, D.C. — The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature suggested this week that they do not intend to host public redistricting hearings, drawing complaints from fair maps advocates. In Florida, the state Legislature draws both congressional and legislative maps, but is constitutionally required to wait until the 2022 regular session to begin the process. The Reapportionment Committees met for the first time last month and reconvened earlier this week to review their upcoming plan.
“We are obviously substantially impacted by the delay in getting the data… Although a decision hasn’t been made, it will be difficult to do a roadshow like you’ve seen in past,” said House Reapportionment Chairman Rep. Tom Leek (R), referencing the six months of public hearings held across the state during the last redistricting process in 2012. Notably, Chair of the Senate Committee on Reapportionment Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R) suggested that the need for public hearings has diminished since the Legislature’s lawyers reached the conclusion that the state no longer needs to keep communities of interest together.
Instead, the Legislature will rely on comments and proposed maps submitted by the public via a new website, although lawmakers did not specify how they plan to review the submitted content. In response to Democrats and voting rights advocates who have criticized this closed-door process, some members of the redistricting committee indicated that they have not ruled out the possibility of online hearings. Advocates have also called on the legislators to livestream the map drawing to build trust in the process.