Pensacola may extend redistricting deadline

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

The city of Pensacola will soon be assessing its seven municipal districts, but it’s unclear just how soon this will occur. As per its charter, a redistricting commission must submit a plan to the Pensacola City Council a year ahead of the November 2022 election, but that looks unlikely to happen.

City Attorney Susan Woolf informed council members this week that she considered meeting the Nov. 8 deadline a “highly unrealistic expectation.”

“We are in no different position than anyone else, for good or bad,” Woolf said, explaining that the city’s process is being held up by a delay in the release of U.S. Census results. She told the city council that the census results—on which the city will base any redrawing of its districts —were not expected to be released until September.

“When they say September,” Woolf said, “they mean the last day of September.”

Due to the delay, the council should consider tweaking some dates outlined in the city charter. While a specific timeline is still being worked out, she suggested that the commission’s final report would land in the February or March timeframe of 2022, or about five months late.

While the final deadline would be pushed back in this scenario, Woolf said that the city should still assemble a redistricting commission by early June as laid out in the charter so that the members can begin learning about the process.

“So that when the information is released, they can immediately hit the ground running,” Woolf said.

The attorney said that to extend the final deadline, the council would need to formalize the move with an ordinance. However, not council members agreed.

Councilwoman Sherri Myers said that she would not be seeking reelection and that whoever decided to run for her seat would need to be making decisions based on the city’s revised districting before the spring of 2022.

“I would hope we could have this done before the end of the year because of that,” Myers said.

Woolf said that she was basing her time estimates on the city’s last redistricting process in 2011.

“It was five meetings over four months to get it done,” she said.

Mayor Grover Robinson said that he agreed with Myers that the commission should wrap up its work by the end of this year and that if the commission took care of all of its work except that which required the hard census data, maybe it could be accomplished.

“By the time the actual data comes in, you can have a lot of that stuff worked through,” the mayor said.

Woolf said that she would work to draw up twin timelines for the council to consider, one that ended by the end of this year and another that extended the deadline into 2022.

“Then the council could have an option,” the attorney said.

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1 thought on “Pensacola may extend redistricting deadline

  1. The City of Pensacola’s first municipal “general” election could be held as early as August 23, 2022 if there are three or more candidates for the offices of Mayor or District 2, 4 or 6 City Council Member. The City Charter’s Section 6.04.(a) Election Procedures provides, “The [municipal] general election for contests with three (3) or more candidates shall be held on the date of the primary election established by general law for election of State and County officers.” The city does not conduct “primary” elections. The term “primary” is defined by state law, specifically Section 100.061 Primary Election, Florida Statutes. Two of the four legal errors in the current Charter is the improper use of the term “primary” in other parts of the Charter and that Section 6.04 and 6.08 are in conflict. Obviously, the current districting plan violates the voter-approved districting criteria and the Voting Rights Act. If I were a member of the current City Council, I would want an independent review of the corrupt work of the 2011 districting commission so they and the City Council cannot do it again to include racially gerrymandering Districts 5 and 7 to dilute the African-American vote as was a key part of the 2011 plan, in addition to protecting four City Council incumbents and one districting commission member who objected to the lawful plan put forward by Supervisor of Elections David Stafford and rejected because it failed to “give respect to the incumbents.” As for changing any dates, state law gives the City Council very, very limited discretion to change dates in the Charter without voter approval. Any changes made to Section 6.08 would likely require voter approval.

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