Florida would become the seventh state to end so-called prison gerrymandering under legislation one state senator has promised to push hard next year.
The bill by Democrat Randolph Bracy, who represents the Orlando suburbs, would require the mapmakers who draw General Assembly districts to count prisoners as residents at their home addresses, instead of in the mostly rural areas where most of the state's penitentiaries are located. That current approach, Bracy argues, inflates the population of those rural areas at the expense of the big cities where most of the incarcerated come from.
The change would likely mean extra seats for the Orlando, Tampa and Miami metropolitan areas.
Democrats in Tallahassee are worried their Republican counterparts in the legislature will return to their partisan gerrymandering ways at their next opportunity, now that the Florida Supreme Court majority has shifted this year to conservative from liberal.
But GOP lawmakers told the Orlando Sentinel they do not have designs on drawing districts for the coming decade that are aggressively shaped to perpetuate their political strength.
Add Jacksonville, the fourth biggest city in Florida, to the list of communities where activists are attempting to implement ranked-choice voting to encourage more participation and less rancor in politics.
And within days, a new statewide organization promoting the increasingly popular alternative to the traditional vote-for-one candidate system is expected to be announced.
But both efforts are likely to face legal obstacles that could hobble the latest democracy reform drive in the nation's most populous politically purple state.
The new law requiring felons in Florida to pay all their fines and court fees before getting their voting rights restored would leave about 80 percent of them unable to register, according to research that is part of a legal challenge to the law.
Professor Daniel Smith, chairman of the University of Florida political science department, also found that black convicts would be more likely to be left on the sidelines during elections than white convicts.
Smith submitted his testimony on behalf of several convicted felons who would be blocked from restoring their voting rights as well as the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.