Orange County Redistricting 2021 FAQs
Last Updated October 2021
Q: What is redistricting?
A: The goal of redistricting is to rebalance the population between commission districts so that no Commissioner is representing substantially more individual citizens than the other Commissioners. Redistricting is accomplished by adjusting the boundaries of the County’s six commission districts to account for population growth. Decennial redistricting occurs every 10 years and is based on the population data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent decennial census.
Q: When is Orange County due for a redistricting?
A: As the latest census was completed by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020, Orange County must complete its decennial redistricting process prior to the next election in 2022.
Q: Where is redistricting mandated?
A: Federal law, Article VIII, Section 1(e) of the Florida Constitution, and Section 202 of the Orange County Charter require the County to redistrict after each decennial census.
Q: Why should average citizens care about redistricting?
A: Though the County is committed to following the laws and fundamental principles during its redistricting process, the average citizen is the most informed to the unique character and concerns of their community and how a shift in commission district boundaries may impact them. “Cracking,” “packing,” and “gerrymandering” are all words used in redistricting to describe how map lines can decrease the political voice of particular communities while artificially raising the influence of others. Participation in the redistricting process by average citizens will assist the County in meeting its goal of adopting adjusted boundaries that are fair and equitable for all.
Q: What are redistricting principles?
A: The most important principle in redistricting is ensuring that the populations between the County’s commission districts are as nearly equal as practicable. There are then additional redistricting principles and criteria that the County must balance, some having more legal weight than others. Ultimately, the County needs to develop and adopt a revised county commission district map that properly considers and prioritizes the principles and criteria provided and permitted by law.
Q: What are the redistricting criteria?
A: There are three main redistricting criteria: Equal Population, Federal Anti-Discrimination Law, and Consideration of the “Traditional Redistricting Principles.”
Q: What do the Equal Population criteria entail?
A: Equal population is the most important of the redistricting criteria and is based on the constitutional concept of “One Person, One Vote” derived by the U.S. Supreme Court from the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Also, pursuant to Florida law and the County Charter, districts must be divided so they are contiguous and as nearly equal in population as practicable.
Because equal population favors districts that are as nearly equal in population as practicable, the ideal district population is the total population of Orange County divided by the 6 commission districts. After calculating the ideal district population, the “relative deviation” of each district can be calculated by dividing the population of the district by the ideal district population.
According to U.S. Supreme Court case law, a redistricting plan presumptively meets the “One Person, One Vote” mandate so long as the “maximum deviation” does not exceed 10%. The maximum deviation is calculated by adding the absolute values of the relative deviations of both the highest and the lowest populated districts.
Q: What does the Anti-Discrimination criteria entail?
A: This criteria comes from both the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In sum, the County is prohibited from using race as a predominate factor when drawing its district lines unless it has a strong basis of evidence that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act demands it.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits the County from denying or abridging the right to vote on account of an individual’s race, color, or status as a member of a language minority group. “Language minority group” is defined by Congress to specifically mean persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives, or of Spanish heritage.
A voting practice or procedure violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act if, based on the “totality of the circumstances”, it provides a minority population with less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.
The Courts go through a three-factor test and several other considerations in order to determine whether a plaintiff could make a successful claim that a government’s district boundaries violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act occurred. The three-factor test asks:
- Whether the minority population is sufficiently large and geographically compact enough to constitute a majority in a reasonably configured district;
- Whether the minority population is politically cohesive; and
- Whether the white majority votes sufficiently as a block to usually defeat the minority population’s preferred candidate.
Q: What are the Traditional Redistricting Principles?
A: The traditional redistricting principles include the following:
- Preservation of Municipal Boundaries
- Preservation of Cores of Prior Districts
- Maintaining Communities of Interest
- Protection of Incumbents
Q: Why are legal redistricting complaints typically filed?
A: Legal complaints are filed for the following reasons:
- Unequal representation
- Lack of compliance with Federal Anti-Discrimination Law
- Perceived gerrymandering
- Dividing of neighborhoods or communities of interest
Q: Who may file a complaint?
A: Any resident in the challenged district, any non-resident who can prove the adopted decennial redistricting map causes them irreparable injury, and the U.S. Department of Justice all have legal standing to file a complaint against the County regarding the results of its redistricting process.
Q: What did Orange County do in 2011 as part of the redistricting process?
A: Orange County established an advisory committee to analyze and review data. The committee met from April 2011 to November 2011. There were also numerous lengthy meetings and public hearings. In November 2011, the committee recommended maps reflecting proposed commission district boundary adjustments to the Board of County Commissioners for their consideration and eventual adoption.
Q: What is Orange County planning for the 2021 redistricting process?
A: Orange County has already formed a Redistricting Project Team, which consists of personnel from the Neighborhood Services Division, County Attorney’s Office, Fiscal and Operational Support Division (PEDS), Communications Division, and the Supervisor of Elections Office. Ongoing activities include internal coordination meetings, vetting software programs to analyze the Census data, and discussions with stakeholder organizations.
The County is also putting together an Advisory Committee for Redistricting (ACR) which will review the decennial census data, as well as propose and analyze maps reflecting various possibilities for adjustments to the commission district boundaries that are compliant with the redistricting criteria. The ACR will then recommend maps reflecting proposed commission district boundary adjustments to the Board of County Commissioners for their consideration and eventual adoption.
Q: What about community input and public engagement?
A: Orange County has placed a high priority on community input and public engagement. Citizens can expect to be able to participate in public meetings regarding redistricting and also have access to a webtool that permits them to try adjusting the commission boundaries themselves.
Q: What is Orange County’s schedule for the 2021 redistricting process?
A: View the Redistricting meeting schedule.
Q: Have there been any delays in the redistricting process due to COVID-19?
A: Yes. COVID-19 created a substantial delay in the Census 2020 campaign and subsequent release of the redistricting data by the U.S. Census Bureau. While the County initially anticipated receiving the requisite redistricting data by the end of March 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau only released its initial “legacy format” redistricting data on August 12, 2021, and currently anticipates releasing its final redistricting data sometime before September 30, 2021.
Q: How can I find out more about Orange County’s 2021 Redistricting?
A: For further information, please email Redistricting@ocfl.net or call (407) 836-5606.