By Kathy L. Collins
As you prepare to vote in the upcoming Primary on August 30 and General Election on November 8, it is important that every voter in Hillsborough County be aware of changes made as a result of U.S. Congressional and State Senate redistricting.
Hillsborough County will now be represented by four Congressional districts (districts 12, 14, 15 and 16) and four State Senate districts (district 18, 19, 20 and 21). As a result of renumbering, you may be represented by a different congressman or state senator; it all depends on where you live.
If you are a registered voter, you should have received a new Voter Information Card. This will provide you with the pertinent information on which district you now live in with respect to the U.S. Congress, State Senate, County Commission and School Board.
According to Craig Lattimer, the Supervisor of Elections, “The Voter Information Cards are an important communications tool for us, and we ask that voters review the new cards carefully to ensure that their name, address and party affiliation are correct, and to see whether their precinct or Election Day place has changed.”
After each U.S. Census is conducted every 10 years, the Legislature redraws the districts from which Florida voters elect their state representatives, state senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives (Congress). Redistricting is the process of redrawing the districts to adjust for uneven growth rates in different parts of the state. Districts determine which voters participate in which elections.
Redistricting is standardized by the U.S. Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Florida Constitution. In addition, in 2010 voters in Florida added Amendments 5 and 6 to the State Constitution. These are known as the Fair District Amendments. The map was drawn by the Legislature in 2012. While the map was used in the 2012 and 2014 elections, it was disputed by a coalition of groups including the League of Women Voters. Ultimately, after several years and numerous court battles, in December 2015, the Florida Supreme Court approved the map that is currently being used.
For voters in Eastern Hillsborough County, this can mean changes to the person who represents you in both the State Senate and the U.S. Congress. For instance, State Senator Tom Lee’s District 24, which currently covers all of Eastern Hillsborough County and parts of Pasco and Polk County, has been redrawn. In November, Lee will run for the State Senate in District 20 which includes Zephyrhills, Dade City, Plant City and part of Polk County. State Senator Bill Galvano will run in the new District 21, which covers the area south of State Road 60 in Brandon including FishHawk, Southern Hillsborough County and Manatee County. Voters south of the Alafia River will also be in a new U.S. Congressional District (District 16) which is currently represented by Vern Buchanan.
State House Representative Districts remain the same and were not included in the litigation because they are set by an act of the Legislature and approved by the governor and are not subject to mandatory review by the Florida Supreme Court.
In order to vote in the primary, you must be registered to vote by August 1. Florida is a closed primary state, which means that only voters registered with a political party may vote in that party’s primary election. Early voting for the primary will run from August 15 through August 28. Primary Day is August 30. In order to vote in the general election, you must be registered to vote by October 11. Early voting begins on October 24 and ends on November 6. The General Election will be held on November 8.
For more information on districts and who is running for office, visit www.votehillsborough.org.