Inside the Lines: Miami-Dade presents complicated brew for lawmakers

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Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida writes: When the Legislature’s map-makers begin to draw political districts in South Florida later this year and early in 2012, they will face a complicated jigsaw puzzle of ethnic groups and other communities who want to make sure their interests are represented in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

At a Wednesday hearing in downtown Miami, lawmakers got a checklist of sorts, from Cubans and other Latinos to Haitian immigrants to African Americans. Even the gay community called for a seat or two — though the chairman of the Senate committee charged with drawing maps said he doesn’t even know how that would be achieved.

At the same time, the House and Senate redistricting committees also heard from some people — including a man who termed himself a “general American” — who called for the lines to be drawn with little or no attention paid to the ethnic divisions that run through Miami-Dade County.

“We’ll try to strike a balance, bearing in mind that we won’t make everyone happy,” said Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Gaetz and his House counterpart, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, noted that the Legislature will have to draw some majority-minority districts based on the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act. There’s no shortage of ideas.

Advocates for Latino voters called for districts there that maintain – or even expand – their influence in the area. Lida Rodriguez-Tassef, a board member with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, an organization that has made Florida one of its focuses in this decade’s redistricting round, called for the committees to consolidate the Latino influence in the some Southeast Florida seats.

The 25th Congressional District, which is larger than an ideal district by almost 111,000 people, should shed its Southwest Florida portions and focus more exclusively on Southeast Florida, she said. Rodriguez-Tassef also called for changes to the 21st Congressional District, which is close to ideal size.

Rodriguez-Tassef said the arrangement of the districts helps dilute Latino influence in areas like Kendall, which is heavily Latino; that population is roughly split between Cubans and other Hispanics.

“The people of Kendall don’t need three different representatives; they need one,” she said.

Maria Rodriguez, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, called for better representation for immigrants, such as the heavily Mexican population along the U.S. 27 corridor.

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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.