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A Hispanic Voice
A Hispanic Voice
February 4, 2002
Our position: A plan to give Hispanics more political influence deserves approval.
Central Florida Hispanics don't have the political voice that they deserve. If they miss gaining that voice in the current redistricting process, they could be shortchanged for the next 10 years.
Consider that even though one of five Central Floridians is Hispanic, Hispanics don't hold any of the region's 18 state House, seven state Senate or five congressional seats. That's mostly because Hispanic growth didn't mushroom until after the last redistricting in 1992. But with the new redistricting, Hispanics' large and growing numbers argue for more representation.
The best idea to address this shortcoming is contained in a plan that will be considered today by the House Redistricting Committee. That plan calls for creating a legislative district that would go from the Goldenrod area on the Orange-Seminole line, through east Orlando, down to Pine Castle in south Orange and into the sprawling Buenaventura Lakes community in Osceola County.
This plan would create a district that is reasonably compact and, as required by court decisions, contains several communities of common interests that have nothing to do with race or ethnicity. It not only has similar income levels and housing types, but also shared transportation corridors and an economic base of small businesses.
That district also would be 41 percent Hispanic, a number that would grow during the next 10 years. Even though the courts ruled that ethnicity can't be the primary reason for drawing district lines, those demographic factors can be considered.
The beauty of this plan is that it avoids many of the pitfalls encountered in the past when districts were created to give minorities a political voice. For one thing, this plan avoids extreme, confusing gerrymandering. Probably the best local example of extreme racial gerrymandering is U.S. House District 3, which stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando.
To ensure that a black candidate could win an election, almost every black neighborhood between Jacksonville and Orlando was included. This left surrounding districts almost entirely white. So there was no reason for the members representing those districts to spend any political capital addressing issues important to black voters.
Even though the proposed state House district includes a concentration of Hispanics, there still remain sizable Hispanic populations in surrounding districts. That puts pressure on those representing other districts to pay attention to issues important to Hispanics. It also opens the door for Hispanics to run in other districts.
Making way for Hispanics to be heard does not infringe on other minority groups or the white majority. There should be room at the leadership table for everyone to be heard. That's the only way to build the consensus needed to address this state's critical problems in areas such as education, growth and economic development.
February 8, 2002
Our position: A Hispanic district passed its first test but needs more support.
Central Florida's Hispanic community wins with the state House redistricting plan that cleared its first legislative hurdle this week.
Under that plan, Hispanics would get a well-deserved opportunity to make their political voices heard through the creation of a district that straddles the Orange-Osceola county line.
This issue deserves high-profile treatment. Even though almost one in five Central Floridians is Hispanic, Hispanics don't hold any of the region's 18 state House, seven state Senate or five congressional seats. That's mostly because the amazing growth in the Hispanic population -- whose members have outpaced blacks to become the area's largest minority group -- did not occur until after the last redistricting in the early 1990s.
The plan, which was approved in the House Redistricting Committee earlier this week, would create a House district that would go from the Goldenrod area in east Orange, through east Orange County, down to Pine Castle in south Orange and into Osceola County's Buenaventura Lakes community.
This would create a district that is 41 percent Hispanic. That percentage certainly would not guarantee the election of a Hispanic lawmaker. But it would guarantee that anyone running for the seat would have to address issues that are important to Hispanics.
Creating this district has been particularly challenging. Recent court decisions forbid using ethnicity or race as the key motivation for drawing lines, although those demographic factors can be considered.
But this plan appears to be on solid ground. The district is reasonably compact and includes several communities of common interests, including similar housing types and income levels and shared transportation corridors.
The plan, which was prepared by a Republican lawmaker, is superior to a proposal offered by Democrats. That proposal, which was rejected by the redistricting committee but could be resurrected, calls for creating a district that would sweep from east Orlando to the Brevard County line and include the Buenaventura Lakes area in Osceola County. But that district would be only 34 percent Hispanic. That's not good enough.
Another key factor in the Republican plan, which has been sent to the House Procedural & Redistricting Council for the next round of approvals, is that it leaves sizable Hispanic populations -- as much as 21 percent -- in surrounding House districts. If demographic trends continue, those communities will have the political power to elect Hispanic representatives within a few years.
Making an extra effort to ensure that Hispanics have an opportunity to exercise their political muscles does not shortchange any other minorities, or the white majority. Hispanics are an integral part of this community. They deserve a place at the political table.