County still needs census data to redraw districts

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.

 

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1 thought on “County still needs census data to redraw districts

  1. The five districts should be equal, contiguous and compact. Pensacola Beach is unique in that it is geographically isolated and only accessible from Escambia County by driving though Santa Rosa County. Maybe all of Santa Rosa Island needs to be in Santa Rosa Island. Santa Rosa County already leases much of the island from Escambia County. That might be an “interesting” question to ask people living on Pensacola Beach – in which county would you like to live? I assume that Congress could authorizing transferring the title from one county to another. Santa Rosa County can then figure out how to replace both bridges going out to the island vice just one. In the meantime, you have two very distinct communities of interest – Pensacola Beach and the City of Pensacola -that almost perfectly constitute one-fifth of the county’s voters and so probably the population at large. A good starting point in the county redistricting effort would be to make those two areas District 4 and start from there. It is far beyond ridiculous for the City of Pensacola to be gerrymandered up among three different county election districts. District 2 (now represented by Commissioner Underhill who lives in Perdido Key) is gerrymandered to include much of Downtown Pensacola to include Pensacola City Hall, the Port of Pensacola, the Community Maritime Park and the Pensacola Yacht Club. It is crazy. I have not looked to see what the boundaries were in 2001 but in 2011 the lines were likely drawn to benefit District 2 Commissioner Gene Valentino who lived in two places at once. As I recall the story I heard, he lived full-time in Port Royal where he claimed his homestead exemption. He also lived full-time in Innerarity Point where he registered to vote. As far as I know, he only had one family. Apparently, it is legal in Escambia County to live full-time in two places at once. Mike Hill did it registering to vote where he did not live as did Lumon May until 2019 and now Kevin Stephens is doing it. ECUA board member Elvin McCorvey did it too in a way moving to live in District 4 for most of his last full term of office representing District 3. Three of four Pensacola mayoral candidates are not city residents and not eligible to be elected to any city office in 2022 but no one seems to care. At this place, David Morgan is going to win by default as the only legal mayoral candidate.

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