Inside the Lines: Lawmakers get little guidance on ‘key’ questions for Keys

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Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida reports that lawmakers who came to the Florida Keys hoping to get some instructions about where to place the island chain when they redraw the state’s political maps over the last few years instead heard largely the same complaints they have in other parts of the state about the process.

Meeting about five miles away from the southernmost point on the continental United States, lawmakers realized that there’s only one way to go in the Keys: North and to the east, back towards the state’s mainland. But there was less certainty, lawmakers said, about where to go once the Keys and the rest of Monroe County are put together.

At 73,090 people, Monroe County is too small to incorporate an entire state House, state Senate or U.S. House district. Instead, the county will have to be grafted onto another district, either toward Collier County on the mainland to the northwest, or a Miami-Dade district to the northeast. The current maps take a hodgepodge approach, including sticking the Keys onto a largely Miami-Dade-centric Congressional district while most of the rest of Monroe goes elsewhere.

“The question for Monroe County can best be characterized as, which community does Monroe County want to be included with for its legislative and Congressional districts?” House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said as the meeting opened.

The main message delivered by those residents who specifically addressed the Keys was to keep the island chain and its county united.

“Monroe County and the Florida Keys are different than just about any part of the state of Florida,” said Ed Scales, who spoke on his own behalf despite being an attorney with the law firm representing the House in a lawsuit challenging new redistricting amendments.

For the most part, though, the meeting centered around many of the same complaints and questions that have dogged the process from the start: Lawmakers are getting the process started too late, should have already proposed maps for voters to review and should drop their challenge to Amendments 5 and 6, anti-gerrymandering measures approved by voters in a referendum last year.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.