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Riviera Beach pauses district changes amid potential violation of state & federal election laws

Federal law requires districts to be approximately equal in population, which doesn't exist in Riviera Beach
Posted at 5:03 PM, Jun 06, 2024

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — The city of Riviera Beach will pause its redistricting process after a vote at Wednesday night's regularly scheduled city council meeting.

According to city staff, redistricting hasn't been performed since 1979, leading to imbalanced districts — posing potential violations of both state and federal election laws. The decision means voters on Singer Island will have a political voice equal to a district in northwest Riviera Beach with a smaller number of voters, but a higher percentage of white voters.

City of Riviera Beach Existing Districts:

Singer Island is its own district based on the city's current map, which means it gets one member on the Riviera Beach City Council. Consultants paid by the city of Riviera Beach said the island had 4,291 people based on the last census. It also said 88.79% of those people are white.

In comparison, District 1 gets the same amount of representation in the city council. Consultants paid by the city of Riviera Beach said the district has 15,793 people based on the last census. It also said 17.6% of the population is white.

Mary Braham said some districts in the city of Riviera Beach have a racial element towards them, which needs a fix.

"It's there, and we can not sweep it underneath the rug," she said. "It shouldn't be there, but it is there. It is there. Trying to achieve morals and virtue isn't easy."

Consultants gave the city three different maps to make new district boundaries, but none were chosen.

Dr. Glen Spiritis, who is the representative for Singer Island, said the census is the wrong method to create districts in Riviera Beach because the census doesn't count "seasonal" residents. He argued there was nothing in the city code requiring consultants use the census and disagreed with their calculation.

"While we are going over numbers, Singer Island pays 52.46% of the taxes for the entire city," Spiritis said. "Sometime you don't have to listen to the weather report. You can just open the window and look out. ... We don't have to listen to experts to drive down Singer Island to realize that we have more than 4,500 people in the population living on Singer Island."

He also said he was disappointed in the workshops, which occurred while most of Singer Island's population was absent.

City staff said those two workshops, which occurred in May, were attended by about 80 people. It said the biggest concerns was accuracy in the census, district changes and the purpose for redistricting.

City Attorney Dawn Wynn indicated the city entered a settlement after Councilmember Tradrick McCory, who represents more populated District 1, sued the city over the issue. However, she said the terms of the settlement were to just bring a proposal for the council rather than make a direct change while advising no change likely meant it would violate state and/or federal laws.