© 2024 Central Florida Public Media. All Rights Reserved.
90.7 FM Orlando • 89.5 FM Ocala
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A conversation with Rep. Geraldine Thompson on Black voters and congressional redistricting

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson. Photo: WMFE
State Rep. Geraldine Thompson. Photo: WMFE

Last spring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis secured a redistricting plan that reduced the districts likely to elect a Black Democrat to Congress.

It's being challenged in court but remains in effect for Tuesday's General Election.

Democratic State Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando has already won her race for state Senate. She spoke with WMFE's Joe Byrnes about redistricting.

WMFE: Ms. Thompson, what are you hearing from other African American voters? Do voters feel diminished by the new congressional map?

THOMPSON: People are very concerned about the fact that the maps diminish the opportunity for African Americans to choose a representative of their choice in Congress. Right now. We have four African Americans from Florida in Congress, and the new maps will take it down to possibly two.

WMFE: Are you seeing an effect on black voter turnout?

THOMPSON: Well, it depends. I campaigned for Congressman Charlie Crist this past Sunday. I went to Black churches, and a lot of them are insulted. You know, first of all by the redistricting map and the fact that they're being counted out. All of the polling and everything that you hear says that, you know, there's going to be a red wave, but we have been counted out before, we've been underestimated before.

WMFE: So you do see a strong voter turnout among African American voters?

THOMPSON: We're working to to encourage people to get out and vote and just to make them aware of how serious this particular election is, because we're talking about things like not discussing race or racism in our classrooms. Are we going to embrace an approach that whitewashes history? And that's one of the things that people are very concerned about and the new map and then, really, people are concerned about the 20 individuals who were arrested when they voted after the state officials sent them voter registration cards. So they assumed, based on the action of the state, that they were eligible to vote.

WMFE: Some groups have challenged the congressional map for violating the Florida Constitution, which says that districts should not be drawn to favor one party over another or diminish the ability of minorities to elect representatives of their choice. The governor, on the other hand, cites the U.S. Constitution to argue that race shouldn't be a major part of the equation. What do you think? Does the governor have a point?

THOMPSON: Race has always been a part of the equation. You had what has been called packing and cracking looking at racial demographics. ... With packing, all of the African American voters would be packed into one district, and therefore everything else was bleached around that one district. So, yes, you would have at an African American district, but then the majority would take the rest of the districts. That was packing. Or you would have cracking, where you had an African American population, and rather than critical mass, you fractured it in so many different districts that you couldn't have, really, an impact. That's what has been happening in the United States of America. And that was all based on race. So now we're at a point where they're using the United States Constitution to say that race should not be an issue when it has always been an issue.

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.