FORT LAUDERDALE — Concern over the possible dilution of the black vote surfaced during a meeting of Broward County commissioners called to consider possible redistricting maps.
“The most important thing is that we do it in a fair and balanced way and not dilute the votes across the district,” said Corey Shearer of Sunrise. “I am especially concerned with diluting the black vote in District 7. That population has been part of a natural progression in Broward.”
During the Nov. 8 public hearing on proposed new commission district boundaries for the nine single-member districts, the commissioners voted to consider three of the 19 maps submitted. The maps making the cut are Map 4A, an alteration of a staff map submitted by Commissioner Chip LaMarca; the TJ Reddick map, submitted by Sue-Ann Robinson Caddy, president of the TJ Reddick Bar Association; and the Robert Strum map, submitted by Robert Strum.
The commissioners will vote on those three during a second public hearing scheduled for Dec. 13.
A finalized map is expected to be approved by the commission at the end of that hearing and go into effect in January 2012.
Meetings are being held at the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
The Broward County Charter requires redistricting to balance the populations of the individual districts and ensure residents have equal representation on the county commission. Since 2000, the county’s population has shifted significantly. The population in districts in the eastern section has remained steady or dropped, while the population in the western and southwestern districts has grown dramatically.
Commissioner Dale VC Holness told the hearing that the Robert Strom map dilutes the minority vote in district 7. “Unless there is a real need, there is no reason to dramatically change the boundaries,” he said.
Only District 8 needs to be altered dramatically, Holness said. “And that’s because it has the majority of the votes. Each district requires 194,000 people and (Commissioner Barbara Sharief’s district) has 257,312. That’s a plus of 32.5 percent. If we take that and adjust it to the north and east, then we won’t have to be as disruptive. That’s not what the Strom map considers.”
Robinson-Caddy said “diversity and fairness” was the goal of the TJ Reddick map and that would be achieved by not adding anyone to district 9 and not diluting the vote in district 7.
There was a scarcity of blacks at the hearing, which upset Patrice Ralston of Lauderhill. “How can we as blacks make decisions about who represents us and what goes on if we don’t participate? None of the maps really hurt District 9 but what about 7 and 8?” she said.
People are migrating west, Ralston said. “And that’s no excuse for not being concerned about the black vote. In fact, out west and District 4 to the east are dilution hot spots. We need to come out and address the commission before their final vote.”
“Broward County has a $3.2 billion budget. Without equal representation, those monies will bypass our neighborhoods. We’ll only get the change,” Ralston said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Broward County’s second public hearing and final vote on redistricting maps
WHEN: 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 13. Speakers must sign up before the meeting begins.
WHERE: Broward County
Governmental Center, Room 422, 115 South Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
COST: Free and open to the public.
CONTACT: For more information, call 954-357-8053.
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net