The redistricting maps approved by the Florida Senate on Tuesday “do not meet the criteria set forth by the Fair Districts amendments,” writes state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, in a new column explaining her decision to buck the party line and vote against the maps.
In the piece, published at Florida Voices, Dockery is sharply critical of how Polk County is chopped up in the Senate’s maps:
Reasonable people would hardly agree that tight-knit Polk County, population 602,095, should be split into four different senate districts and four different congressional districts. The maps even split the city of Lakeland in two.
Rather than a compact district, proposed Congressional District 12 embraces 11 counties as far south as Lee County and as far east as the St. Lucie County line.
This new district is billed as rural, even though Lakeland is home to 102,000 people and boasts Publix Super Markets as a major employer, with State Farm Insurance and Badcock Furniture close by. Curiously, Port Charlotte, a charming community of just 54,000, was removed from this district because it is “too urban.”
That last sentence refers to the decision by the Senate reapportionment committee to lump western Charlotte County into a congressional district that includes the coastal portions of Sarasota and Manatee counties. Charlotte County residents had told the committee that they preferred to join a district that included other coastal areas, but many Sarasota residents vocally supported keeping Manatee and Sarasota counties intact and in the same district.
Dockery, the only Republican to vote against the Florida Senate’s plan, continues:
With problems identified, why the lopsided vote? Perhaps it was political self-preservation for returning members. Some Republicans and Democrats like their new districts. Or maybe it was a belief that the courts will fix the maps, so no need to incur the wrath of Senate leaders pushing this version. Or perhaps the smoke and mirrors of so-called transparency provided a shield.
The maps approved on Tuesday do not meet the criteria set forth by the Fair Districts amendments. Rather, they increase the odds that a process billed as transparent and inclusive will be overturned in court — a waste of taxpayer time and money.