All On The Line Florida is Committed to Making Sure All Floridians Have Their Say in the Redistricting Process
Florida’s once in a decade process of redrawing the state’s redistricting maps has officially begun. As the Florida State Director at All On The Line, I have spent the last two years engaging with the public about the harmful impacts that gerrymandering has on state and federal policymaking, and working with folks so they can engage in every step of the redistricting process. Last week marked a huge milestone in that effort.
All On The Line supporters across the state have been taking the time to get educated on the unique redistricting history in our state, Florida’s mapping criteria in our state constitution, and what to expect in the process. Now, they are ready to have their voices heard by telling their elected officials about their communities.They are also ready to evaluate and comment on proposed maps, especially around whether they follow our constitution this time around.
Unfortunately, the official kick-off for redistricting has been a disappointing one. Currently, Floridians must drive to Tallahassee, during business hours, and are forced to choose between multiple committee and subcommittee meetings on different days of the week (which gets even trickier when two of the committees are meeting at the exact same time, like the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee and House State Legislative Subcommittee did last week). There is still no official announcement on public hearings, and when pressed with more details on why, committee leaders point to the Florida Redistricting website as being a good replacement for the public hearings.
At first glance, the website may seem groundbreaking. After all, it’s a joint effort between the House and the Senate, where the public can submit their own maps and provide written comments. Soon, there will also be a searchable database of all submitted maps, including official ones proposed by committee members, as well as publicly searchable written comments. While I commend the effort, I am confused on how this state of the art mapping software could be available to the public, yet the committees can’t set up zoom conversations to engage with constituents directly.
The website is not a perfect public engagement tool in its own right. In fact, the redistricting suggestion form is arduous and hard to use. To provide a comment on the form, a Floridian would need to have access to the internet, a printer and a scanner to be able to include their handwritten signature. The form is also only available in English, which leaves too many Floridians out of the process, especially with Latinos comprising more than half of Florida’s population growth. Senator Ray Rodrigues stated in the Reapportionment committee’s first meeting that the suggestion forms ask Floridians to state which organizations they worked with on any comment to prevent a “shadow process” like last time (read more about that in my last Medium piece here), which seems like an effort to deter grassroots organizations from helping their supporters through the hard-to-understand and difficult-to-navigate process legislators have created.
One of the reasons grassroots organizations across the state, including groups like All On The Line, exist is to help Floridians make their voices heard. Training and mobilizing Floridians to participate in the map making process is not a “shadow process,” it is giving them the necessary tools to be able to participate in our democracy — which often feels out of reach, and sometimes, unfortunately, seems that way by design.
All On The Line will not be deterred. We will train our supporters on how to navigate these additional barriers for public participation, and develop best practices for those submitting their own comments. For example, this toolkit helps walk Floridians through their options. If anyone wants to learn more about how to engage in the redistricting input process, we also have a Public Testimony Training every Monday at 7pm.
Floridians deserve to have a say in this process — redistricting should be driven by public input. We’re here to make that happen, and we’re not shying away from the challenge.