PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Every ten years new congressional lines are drawn to reflect population changes indicated by the most recent Census.
Florida gained a congressional seat due to population increase, now with 28 congressional seats, up from 27. That meant nearly every seat would be adjusted in some way but a few districts would be greatly impacted in terms of political leaning.
"The districts that he drew for the congressional districts allowed for four more republican-leaning seats in Florida," Dr. Lars Harner, a political analyst said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis drew the lines for Florida's new districts, a job usually left to the state legislature.
State lawmakers around the country were busy this past legislative session drawing up preferred districts. It's a common practice but whether or not it's done fairly depends on who you ask.
"The party in power would argue the people elected them and they draw the districts," Susan Macmanus, a Professor Emerita of political science at the University of South Florida, said.
Congress gained four Republican seats in Florida including District 13 in Pinellas County won by congressional newcomer Anna Paulina Luna, a republican from St. Petersburg.
"I think a lot of people in our community, in Pinellas, feel like they haven’t really been given a fair voice in D.C. I’m just a normal person that stepped up to the plate and realized there’s a lot of problems and I see a lot of solutions," Luna said the day after her victory.
Luna had previously lost to Democrat incumbent Charlie Crist in 2020 before the new lines were drawn.
The new maps made District 14 even more Democratic by lumping parts of St. Petersburg into the district held by longtime Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor but opened the door for a more Republican district in District 13 by gaining more northern parts of Pinellas county.
Anna Paulina Luna is confident she would have won regardless of the district lines.
"We polled the old district and the new district and even in old Florida 13, we were projected to win as well."
With a landslide victory for Republican governor Ron DeSantis, Luna's not alone, as many believe his momentum would have flipped districts regardless of congressional lines.
"Florida democrats didn’t have the winning message nor the means of communicating with different slices of the electorate to ramp up turn out," Macmanus said.
The new maps are being challenged in court but for this election, the winners will stand regardless of the lawsuit's outcome.
"There’s a chance the courts will rule against the governor and how this process was done. If so, these elections will stand but new elections in 2024 and beyond could be held with different lines than what are currently established," Hafner said.
Equal Ground is part of the lawsuit challenging the new lines. Founder, Jasmine Burney-Clark said:
“As the nation awaits the final outcome of the US House and Senate, here in Florida I can't help but think about the congressional districts that were racially and politically gerrymandered by Gov. DeSantis, all to bolster his political ambitions. While statewide elections in Florida were previously decided by fractions of a percent, the Governor’s plan rigged the map overwhelmingly in favor of Republicans in violation of the Fair Districts Amendments which require non-partisan redistricting lines. Equal Ground has been sounding the alarm on voter disenfranchisement and lack of resources since the start of the election cycle. We knew going into the election how difficult it would be to fight oppression when Florida residents and voters have been attacked on many fronts – from the change in congressional representation, the implementation of voter suppression laws, and the creation of an elections police taskforce, all targeting people of color, particularly Black voters.”