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The Florida Senate


About Redistricting

After each decennial Census the Legislature redraws the districts from which Florida voters elect their state representatives, state senators, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Redistricting is the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts to adjust for uneven growth rates in different parts of the state. Districts determine which voters participate in which elections.

Reapportionment is the redistribution of seats in the United States House of Representatives among the 50 states, based on the decennial census. Each state gets at least one seat. Effective with elections in 2012 Florida gets 27 representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, an increase of two.

The Numbers

Between 2000 and 2010, the resident population in Florida increased from 15,982,378 to 18,801,310. The average number of people in each congressional district increased from 639,295 to 696,345. The average number of people in each of 120 state house districts increased from 133,186 to 156,678. The average number of people in each of 40 state senate districts increased from 399,559 to 470,033. Variations in population growth that occurred between 2000 and 2010 are detailed in maps and tables of the 2002-2012 House, Senate, and Congressional districts. Areas with population growth rates less than average needed more territory to equalize population. Areas with population growth rates greater than average needed to lose territory to equalize population.

Redistricting Law

The United States Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Florida Constitution provide standards for redistricting. Under the United States Constitution, district populations must be as nearly equal as practicable. In addition, race may not be the predominant factor in drawing lines, unless the use of race is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest.

The Voting Rights Act requires the creation of a district that performs for racial minorities where (1) a minority population is geographically compact and sufficiently numerous to be a majority in a single district; (2) the minority population is politically cohesive; (3) the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the minority-preferred candidate; and (4) under all of the circumstances, the minority population has less opportunity than others to participate in the political process and elect representatives of its choice.

The Voting Rights Act also prohibits purposeful discrimination and protects against retrogression—or backsliding—in the ability of racial minorities to elect representatives of their choice. Prior to the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder, which negated the coverage formula in the Act, these requirements applied only to certain counties in Florida: Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe. Districts containing parts of these covered jurisdictions had to be submitted to and precleared by a federal court or the United States Department of Justice before the redistricting plan could be enforced. The Shelby County decision means the preclearance process established by the Voting Rights Act is no longer in effect, but it does not affect the validity of the statewide diminishment standard in the Florida Constitution.

Article III, Section 16 of the State Constitution requires the Legislature to divide the state into 30 to 40 contiguous senatorial districts and 80 to 120 contiguous house districts. A district is contiguous if all of its territory is in actual contact, uninterrupted by the territory of another district. Contact at a corner or right angle is insufficient, but territory may cross bodies of water. The Constitution allows state legislative districts to overlap, either partially or entirely.

In November 2010, the voters added Amendments 5 and 6 to the State Constitution as Article III, Sections 20 and 21. These Amendments prohibit line-drawing that intentionally favors or disfavors a political party or an incumbent. The Amendments also afford protection to racial and language minorities. Districts may not be drawn (1) with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process; or (2) to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice. Finally, unless it would conflict with the standards described above, the Amendments require that district populations be as nearly equal as practicable, and that districts be compact and, where feasible, follow existing political and geographical boundaries.

Redistricting 2012

The Reapportionment Timeline (PDF) shows key events and opportunities for public participation in 2011-2012. When drawing district lines, the Legislature considered comments and suggestions gathered from the public during what was regarded as the most open, interactive, and inclusive redistricting process ever conducted.

Citizens had free and easy access to the same redistricting data and applications used by legislators and staff. Nearly 5,000 Floridians attended and more than 1,600 provided testimony at 26 public hearings in communities around the state. Thousands more sent comments and feedback via letters, email, voicemail, and social media. At every committee meeting time was reserved for members of the public, representatives of public interest groups, or civil rights advocates to present their ideas. More than 175 publicly submitted redistricting plans were received by the legislature. Together with all the citizen comments, those plans provided a voluminous collection of specific suggestions and redistricting scenarios for the Legislature to consider.

The Reapportionment Process (PDF) flowchart shows the process for approving new state house and senate districts (See Article III, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution). It also indicates the paths followed dating back to 1972.

The process is different for congressional districts, which are set by act of the Legislature and approved by the Governor (there is no mandatory review by the Florida Supreme Court).

Redistricting Timeline

  • June 20 - September 1, 2011: Statewide public hearings
  • September - December 2011: Interim committee meetings
  • January 10, 2012: Regular Session convenes
  • February 9, 2012: Redistricting plans pass
  • February 16, 2012: Governor approves congressional plan
  • March 9, 2012: Supreme Court declares all House districts and 32 of 40 Senate districts valid
  • March 14, 2012: Extraordinary apportionment session 2012-B convenes
  • March 27, 2012: Revised Senate plan passes
  • April 27, 2012: Supreme Court declares revised Senate plan valid
  • April 30, 2012: U.S. Department of Justice “preclears” State House, Senate, and Congressional plans
  • June 4 - 8, 2012: Qualifying for state and federal offices
  • August 14, 2012: Primary election
  • November 6, 2012: General election
  • July 10, 2014: Second Judicial Circuit Court declares 2 of 27 Congressional districts invalid
  • August 7, 2014: Special Session 2014-A convenes to redraw Congressional plan
  • August 11, 2014: Revised Congressional plan passes; applicable for elections after the 2014 general election
  • August 13, 2014: Governor approves revised Congressional plan
  • August 26, 2014: Primary election
  • November 4, 2014: General election
  • July 9, 2015: Florida Supreme Court invalidates 8 of the 27 Congressional districts drawn in 2014
  • July 28, 2015: Legislature agrees to redraw Senate plan
  • August 10, 2015: Special Session 2015-B convenes to redraw Congressional plan
  • August 21, 2015: Special Session 2015-B adjourns without having adopted a Congressional plan
  • October 19, 2015: Special Session 2015-C convenes to redraw Senate plan
  • November 5, 2015: Special Session 2015-C adjourns without having adopted a Senate plan
  • December 2, 2015: Florida Supreme Court orders new Congressional plan for 2016 General Election
  • December 30, 2015: Second Judicial Circuit orders new Senate plan for 2016 General Election and orders Legislature to randomly renumber new districts
  • January 5, 2016: Legislature randomly renumbers new Senate districts
  • June 20 - 24, 2016: Qualifying for state and federal offices
  • August 30, 2016: Primary Election
  • November 8, 2016: General Election