POINCIANA – When the civic group Poinciana Residents for Smart Change holds its next meeting, the focus will be on the Nov. 6 election – but not on telling local residents how to vote.
What the group hopes to accomplishment by bringing in the supervisors of elections in both Polk and Osceola counties, chairman Keith Laytham said, is that a lot has changed politically in Poinciana this year, including the names expected to be on the ballot for congressional and state legislatives offices, to where local residents vote in the 10 villages that make up this community.
“With the elections coming up in November and the changes that have taken place in Poinciana voting districts and polling locations, there is bound to be a lot of questions — and possibly confusion,” Laytham said. “I wanted folks to get a feeling of what the ballots would be like, whether they vote early or on the day of the election.”
The next PRSC meeting will be on Monday, Sept. 24 at 9:30 a.m. at the Poinciana Library on Doverplum Avenue. Lori Edwards, Polk County’s supervisor of elections, and Mary Jane Arrington, who holds the same position in Osceola, will be the guest speakers.
The focus, Laytham said, will be letting local residents know that where ever they live in Poinciana, whether it’s on the Polk or Osceola County side, they can expect changes, courtesy of a process known as redistricting.
“Things have changed because of redistricting, and voters need to be made aware of this,” he said. “We are absolutely fortunate that we have both Mary Jane Arrington and Lori Edwards coming in, and of course Poinciana is split between the two counties. The precincts that make up both the Osceola and Polk sides of Poinciana are different this year, and many people are not aware of the fact that they have changed.”
Redistricting is done by the Florida Legislature every 10 years to reflect population shifts. As the population changes in Florida’s congressional, state Senate and state House of Representative districts, lawmakers redraw the lines of each district to have a roughly similar population.
This year, the districts that Poinciana used to be a part of are gone, replaced by new ones that in some cases don’t even have an incumbent.
A good example is at the congressional level. Poinciana used to be represented by two congressmen: in Polk, by Republican Dennis Ross, and on the Osceola side, by Republican Bill Posey. Now as a result of redistricting, neither congressman represents Poinciana anymore.
Now, all of Osceola County, the Polk County side of Poinciana, and parts of Orange County have been joined into a new 9th Congressional District. The candidates running for this seat are Democrat Alan Grayson, who previously represented Florida’s old 8th Congressional District centered around Orlando, and Republican Todd Long.
Poinciana’s state senator used to be Paula Dockery, a Republican from Lakeland, who is retiring this year. Now the community is divided into two new state senate districts, with Osceola’s precincts in one district and most of the Polk villages in another. Neither Senate district has an incumbent, although two state representatives – Democrat Darren Soto of Kissimmee and Republican Kelli Stargel of Lakeland – are considered likely to win the seats.
Poinciana once had three state representatives covering the community, and still does, but one of those lawmakers – Rep. Steve Precourt, a Republican from Orlando — no longer has any Poinciana precincts in his district.
Instead, the community is now divided up between the districts of Republican state Reps. Mike Horner of St. Cloud and John Wood of Winter Haven, and a new, Hispanic-majority district made up of the Osceola precincts that does not have an incumbent.
“The state Senate is kind of interesting,” Laytham said. “All of Poinciana is in the state Senate district that Darren Soto is running for, with the exception of Solivita, which is in the Polk Senate district that Kelly Stargel is running for. And in the House, Precourt is gone, and Poinciana’s Villages 1 and 2 are now in District 43, which is the new state House district that was carved up as a minority-majority district.”
Solivita, where Laytham lives, in an adult development on the Polk County side of Poinciana. He noted that Solivita even got carved up between two state House districts as a result of redistricting.
“Let me give you a really weird example,” he said. “You would think that Solivita would all be in the same district, since it always has been in the past, and it’s reasonable to expect that everybody who lives in Soivitia would be in the same districts. But guess what — when it comes to the state House districts, that’s not true.”
Most of the Solivita development, Laytam noted, is on the west side of Marigold Avenue, and most of that got placed in House District 41, represented by Wood.
Two neighborhoods in Poinciana — Bellaviana and Venezia – got put into Horner’s District 42.
“Redistricting makes it even stranger,” Laytham said. “What happened was John Wood lost the Poinciana villages on the Polk side — he used to have all of them – and in redistricting, Poinciana villages 3, 7 and 8 ended up in Mike Horner’s district, and so did those two communities in Solivita, even though the major part of Solivita is in John Wood’s district.”
The likely reason this happened, he said, is “Solivita is a community that is going to vote, because it’s a 55-plus community.”
Laytham said he hopes local residents turn out for the PRSC meeting this month, if for no other reason than to educate themselves about the upcoming election.
“Voter turnout for Poinciana voters will be of critical importance for the future support of Poinciana from our state and county government elected officials,” he said. “If Poinciana voters take time to vote, then these leaders will work to meet the future needs of our community. If Poinciana voters stay home and don’t vote, then our elected leaders will continue to ignore the needs of Poinciana. Please attend the meeting if you are able. Bring as many friends and neighbors as possible.”
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