Florida Democrats say the state Senate's plans for Congressional redistricting "ignore the Florida Constitution"

2:35 PM, Nov 30, 2011   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- The Florida Senate released their proposal late Monday for the state's new Congressional districts for 2012.

At a glance, the maps might not seem so bad. Hernando and Pasco counties join together in District 5. Citrus County could form a brand new District 26, and Manatee and Sarasota Counties stay together in District 13.

However, when 10 News took a closer look at the lines, we found questionable district lines putting next-door neighbors voting for different politicians. For instance, Polk County could be shredded into fourths, and that's why Democrats are so upset.

VIEW: Florida Senate's Proposed Congressional Districts

"The Republicans have done just what we expected them to do. They've taken one of the worst maps in the country and they're trying to cement those maps for another ten years," says Scott Arceneaux of the Florida Democratic Party.  

Take District 11 covering Tampa. The voting area also snakes into downtown Bradenton, meaning two neighbors on 12th Avenue could be in different districts. One of those neighbors could also be roped in with people living 40 miles away in Temple Terrace.

Southern Hillsborough County faces the possibility of having the same representative as citrus farmers 120 miles away in Glades County. To scenarios like that, Arceneaux says, "They're like a jigsaw puzzle gone awry...the Tampa area continues to be cut-up in a number of different ways. Jacksonville is cut up. You saw no effort on the part of Republicans to implement fair districts here."

Lakeland could have three congressional representatives, but none of them are even guaranteed to live in Polk County. One of Lakeland's potential leaders could live in downtown Orlando.

It's even more confusing in the Eagle Rock and Lake Wales area. There, the new District 27 created to ensure Hispanic representation ends up twisting through eastern Polk County, creating a textbook example of gerrymandering.

Democrats like Arceneaux say that's "where [Republicans] try to consolidate their power and thwart the will of the people and basically ignore the Florida constitution."

The Florida House will release their plan for congressional redistricting next week. Then the process begins of combining the two maps into one. However, political experts believe it could be months before we have a final plan because the proposals will likely be challenged in court.

It's also not too late to voice your input on the redistricting proposals. You can email the Senate redistricting committee at RedistrictFlorida@flsenate.gov.

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