How population growth can change the political game in Florida

Central Florida likely to get new congressional seat during redistricting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In Tallahassee right now, Florida lawmakers are beginning the once-in-a-decade process of redistricting and the state’s booming population can change the political game in Central Florida.

By law, each state must redistrict following the census. According to 2020 census data, Florida’s population grew by nearly 2.7 million people in the last decade, meaning Florida will be getting a new representative in Congress.

Right now, Florida has 27 congressional districts, but with the growth, the state will soon be adding a 28th District.

[TRENDING: Orlando police are making drivers cry (in a good way) | You will soon be able to drive a tank in OrlandoBecome a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

“There is no single correct map. There is no such thing as a best map,” said state Rep. Tyler Sirois in an October redistricting committee meeting. “Our task is draw 28 new congressional districts.”

According to 2020 census data, the population in the state is now 21,538,187. Divide that number by 28 congressional districts and each representative will represent about 769,221 people—according to the one person, one vote policy.

That means right now, many districts in Central Florida are overpopulated.

This includes the 9th Congressional District encompassing Osceola County, currently represented by Congressman Darren Soto.

Data shows it’s more than 20% overpopulated and overrepresented.

“Florida’s 9th Congressional District was the fastest growing district in the nation,” Soto told News 6 in an interview last month.

Jim Clark, UCF history professor and News 6 political analyst, said Florida is outpacing other states.

“We have so much quick growth over the last decade that we are able to add a new seat,” Clark said. “Other states, like New York and West Virginia are losing seats.”

So where will that new seat go?

“It’s going to be somewhere along the (Interstate 4) corridor, the question is where?” Clark said. “Of the 11 Democratic Districts (in the state), five are on the I-4 corridor. So, if the Republicans are going to gain, it has to be here.”

Clark said it could close for some Central Florida Democrats.

“The person watching this the most carefully is Stephanie Murphy,” Clark said. “Her district is surrounded almost by Republicans.”

Congresswoman Murphy, a Democrat, upset long-time Republican John Mica in the 2016 elections. Now Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini has declared he is running for her seat. Sabatini, a Republican, represents neighboring Lake County.

“So, Republicans can take votes from District 8 and District 6 and put them in her district to try to tip the balance of power,” Clark said.

The state has set up a website where members of the public can submit their suggestions and take part of the redistricting process, however Clark doesn’t believe it will be so easy.

“It could be right up until the election and we could be fighting this,” Clark added.

State lawmakers are just in the beginning stages of the redistricting process. The final maps have to be approved by the Florida Legislature, which next session begins in January.