Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford told the Board of County Commissioners that his office has yet to receive the 2020 census data.
At the Committee of the Whole, Stafford said he expects to get the raw data by mid-August. The BCC should be able to begin discussing the new district boundaries by late August or early September.
In 2010, the census showed Escambia County had only grown 1%. However, Stafford expects the growth to be around 8 percent. If that holds, the districts will average about 64,500 voters people each.
He pointed out that redistricting is based on population, not registered voters. Stafford said that the school board and BCC don’t have to have the same district boundaries, but he encouraged the two governing bodies to use the same boundaries to avoid confusion among voters.
The district lines have to be drawn in an odd year, according to Florida statute. Commissioner Jeff Bergosh expressed concern that the board may not have time to complete the redistricting by Dec. 31, 2021 and suggested it need to happen in 2023.
Commissioner Doug Underhill said he considered it duty to compete redistricting by the end of this year. He said he wanted to draw the lines based on population and then consider equities. He hinted that he would like to see Pensacola Beach moved to District 2 and out of District 4.
Stafford said his office is ready, willing and able to help the BCC whatever schedule it decides to follow. When pressed by Underhill, he said that if the data is delivered as the federal government has said, he might be able to provide data to the BCC by the Committee of the Whole on Sept. 9 but he made it clear that it’s a board decision to put it on the agenda.
Commissioner Steven Barry said he would like to complete the process by Dec. 31. He asked that County Attorney Alison Rogers work up a schedule with that deadline in mind.