The St. Petersburg Redistricting Commission meets Tuesday at 4 pm to resume its discussions at City Hall (a report here yesterday gave a wrong date). The Commission currently has five options presented to it for consideration, each based on the first requirement that each current Council member’s seat be protected. This has limited the number of possible options to five according to city Staffers who state that ten other options don’t meet their assumptions. The top priority assumption of the City Staff is that each new district must include current members in their own districts so that they would not have to be moved out of their current seat. Based on the “incumbent first” model taken by City Staff, the Sun Beam Times has analyzed the proposed maps and presents some findings here and advocates that the staff provide all options to the commission for review.
The maps and demographic data behind the five options are place here for download and dramatically redraw maps for many districts. For instance districts 1, 7 and 8 will undergo substantial modification in nearly every proposed option. Precincts 106 and 109 will move from district 5 (Kornell) to 6 (Nurse) in every scenario. In four of the five scenarios, three of the city’s eight districts will have a majority (or 49.85%) of registered minority voters. Thus, even though the city’s total minority population is 31.35%, 37.5% of the seats on city council would be subject to predominately representing minority populations in 4 out of five scenarios). Some will see this as an improvement over the prior history of only 25% of the seats representing minority populations. Long standing neighborhoods that have been in the same districts will be subject to splitting apart even though they are in same crime watch groups (e.g. Allendale) and neighborhood associations (Broadwater). Precinct maps and neighborhood association maps will help the reader determine how they will be affected and provide any feedback to the Redistricting commission through the City Clerk at Eva.Andujar@stpete.org.
The assumptions used by the city include the following:
- Each council Member can NOT be moved out of their seat on City Council through redistricting (not required in code).
- Each new district must have no more than a 2% deviation from 30,596 registered voters in each district.
- Must follow precinct boundaries (which were redrawn in 2012 based on the 2010 Census).
- Must be formed of contiguous territory
- Must be “compact”
- Must follow centerlines of streets, railroad lines or natural boundaries.
These are the official requirements according to city code 5.06 (c) (see below*). Note that there is no requirement that minority or majority populations be given any special consideration to increase the number of districts they have. There is no requirement that sitting representatives must remain in their current seats. Based on this lack of a requirement, the Citizen panel should be given the other ten options created by City Staff that do not have the incumbents protected in their seats.
On Wednesday, the Sun Beam Times will present applicable city code likely used by the City to justify keeping incumbents in their district at all costs and offer scenarios on how to overcome this approach to ensure that the districts are redraw based on the standards of contiguous territory that is compact, follows precinct and natural boundaries and street lines and contains an even number of voters.