Friday, December 2, 2011

Lakewood Ranch wouldn't be the first community divided by districts

We reported this week that under the Florida Senate's proposed redistricting plan, Lakewood Ranch would be divided between two senate districts.

The dividing line would be the Manatee-Sarasota county line, a line that the folks of Lakewood Ranch work across and ignore every day. It's one community, but there are some things that are different north and south of the line, including which county collects the taxes, and which supervisor of elections collects the voter registrations.

It's not uncommon for a community to be divided by senate districts. Look no further than Bradenton and Palmetto, for instance.

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, says the redistricting plan is not set in stone. But it will be in the near future. After all, there are state elections coming up next year and the legislature is required to finalize those lines.

All that said, here are some insightful comments on the subject from my colleague, Herald Metro Editor Marc Masferrer that he recently posted in his political blog:

New Florida constitutional requirements requiring geographically compact districts for seats in the U.S. House and Florida Legislature make it less likely that identifiable areas like Lakewood Ranch, which spans across two counties, will remain in the same district.

At least that's an early conclusion that be gathered from proposed redistricting maps released this week by the Florida Senate.

All of Lakewood Ranch would remain in the 13th Congressional District, now represented by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

But the proposed map for new state Senate districts, which have much smaller populations than Congressional districts, would split Lakewood Ranch among two new districts -- the northern portion in District 21, made up of most of Manatee and parts of Hillsborough and Polk counties; and the southern portion in a District 23 made up of all of Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County.

Theoretically, the maps would make it possible for two people from Lakewood Ranch to be elected to the Florida Senate. But the more likely result is that Lakewood Ranch's influence would be diluted, diminished to the point its reach in Tallahassee would be limited.

Nothing suggests that is the intent of the mapmakers. But as lawmakers work to meet the new constitutional requirements -- new districts must be geographically compact AND protect minority voting rights -- splits like what  might happen to Lakewood Ranch are possible.

Another such split in the proposed Senate map affects several predominantly minority neighborhoods in Palmetto and Bradenton, which as they are now, would remain in a Senate district that extends from Tampa in order to keep it a district likely to elect a minority senator. (The district is now represented by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.)

To see what some in Lakewood Ranch think of the proposed map, read the story in Tuesday's Bradenton Herald.

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