Lee County Commissioners move forward with Map Alternative 5 for the 2021 redistricting process
The Lee Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to move forward with Map Alternative 5 as the selected map for the 2021 redistricting process. One commissioner openly expressed his disappointment in the decision, and advocates wanting to reunite Dunbar and Fort Myers say a lawsuit may be incoming.
Seven redistricting alternatives were considered during the process, and Lee County Commissioners voted 3-2 to adopt Alternative Map 5, which changes less than 14 square miles of district boundaries.
Florida law requires that after each decennial census, the Board of County Commissioners adjust commission districts to reduce imbalances in population distribution.
During the public hearing, District 5 Commissioner Frank Mann stated that if Map Alternative 5 was adopted, the commission would be repeating a mistake that was made during the last redistricting process in 2011.
“To my disappointment, we pretty well readopted what we have today for boundaries which leaves a large part of Fort Myers attached across the river into a Cape Coral district," said Mann. "And that has a lot of folks, particularly those that are looking after the Dunbar interest very upset that we’ve been diluting the effectiveness of the Dunbar vote for the last 11 years, and this was an opportunity to change that.”
District 1 Commissioner Kevin Ruane, District 2 Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, and District 3 Commissioner Ray Sandelli all voted in favor of Alternative Map 5. Commissioner Mann and District 4 Commissioner Brian Hamman voted in favor of proposed Alternative Map 7 which would rejoin Dunbar and Fort Myers.
According to the Lee County redistricting website, specific criteria, drawn from case law precedents and common redistricting practices, are used to guide changes to the commission district boundary lines. The redistricting alternative that is selected should adhere to the following criteria as closely as possible:
• An equal population distribution
• Compact boundaries
• Alignment with Census geography
• Boundaries that follow prominent physical features
• Limited splitting of established neighborhoods
• Similar boundaries to existing districts
• Avoided packing and diluting minority population
• Considered population growth for future population equity
Audrea Anderson is a member of the Progressive Women of SWFL’s governing board and spoke in favor of adopting Alternative Map 7 during public comment. After the motion for Alternative Map 5 was made, Anderson said legal action was most likely on the horizon.
“They gerrymandered Dunbar," Anderson said. "It’s very disappointing and I'm sure we have a backup plan, and I think the citizens should not have to pay for the lawsuit that is obviously coming. They should be made to pay out of their pockets for making such a decision.”
The next public meeting on Lee County redistricting will be on the agenda for Tuesday, November 16, during the regularly scheduled Board of County Commissioners meeting at 9:30 a.m.
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