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Dr. Cindy Banyai opposes the breakup of Fort Myers in proposed Congressional maps

New lines of US House District Florida 19 would cut out Black voters in favor of coastal elites

Screenshot of proposed northeastern line of FL19 splitting Fort Myers

Fort Myers, FL – The State of Florida is currently undergoing a process of re-drawing district lines in response to population changes described in the 2020 Census. Last week, the Florida Senate Committee on Reapportionment released their first series of staff drawn maps.

All Congressional maps proposed by the Florida Senate split Fort Myers into 2 districts, FL19 and FL17. FL17 is a mostly rural district, whereas the residents of Fort Myers are urban. It will not be possible for the people of Fort Myers to receive adequate representation with such a configuration. The same can be said for lumping all of Lehigh into FL17 and out of FL19.

Including part of Fort Myers and Lehigh in FL17 goes against the concept of compactness, given the size of FL17. Additionally, the Dunbar community in Fort Myers and Lehigh have high non-white populations. Lehigh has a 64% minority population, while the City of Fort Myers has a 51% minority population. Moving Lehigh and part of the City of Fort Myers out of FL19 has decreased the Black population of FL19 by a third, from 6% to 4% of the total population, in a district with a Black population that was below the state (15.6%) and county (8.2%) percentages.

All configurations of FL19 presented by the Florida Senate Committee on Reapportionment favor the White populations of Southwest Florida, whilst splitting and diluting the power of the people of color. Splitting the City of Fort Myers goes against the concept of communities of interest, especially considering the eastern line of the newly proposed FL19 travels along small, residential roads, not major thoroughfares. This line cuts up the City of Fort Myers and the strong neighborhood community of Dunbar and other majority Black neighborhoods that surround traditional Safety Hill well beyond the railroad track. These areas of Lee County should be put into the same Congressional district. Putting coastal Collier and Lee Counties together favors the wealthy, White elite and marginalizes communities of color across Southwest Florida by lumping them into the largely rural districts of FL17 and FL25.

Dr. Cindy Banyai states “This is gerrymandering. Most of the people who are no longer in FL19 are minorities, our Black and Latino neighbors. It’s well known that this district has always been a giveaway to the Republicans, but this clear targeting of our communities of color should alarm everyone.”

Dr. Banyai goes on “I encourage everyone to review all maps in this redistricting process and to stand up for your community. We cannot let politicians carve out communities they don’t like and ping-pong them around the state. Black and Brown voices should not be marginalized to score political points.”

You can submit your input on the proposed redistricting maps here.

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