• Census: Orlando Fastest Growing City In State

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida grew to 18.8 million residents in the past decade. Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census show that Florida grew by 2.8 million residents from 2000 to 2010.

    That is an increase of more than 17.5 percent. The last time the Census released decennial data, in 2000, Florida had a population of 15.9 million residents. In between that time, Florida has had a housing boom and bust.

    Orlando was the fastest growing major city in the state with more than a 28 percent increase. The biggest growth is among Hispanics, who will play a major role in Florida's congressional races.

    Francisco Torres has watched firsthand as his Winter Springs neighborhood changed from what was once predominantly white to a largely Hispanic neighborhood.

    "A lot of Hispanics. If you notice even some of the street names are pronounced in Spanish, even written in Spanish," Torres said.

    The U.S. Census confirms the numbers. Hispanics grew by more than 57 percent statewide, outpacing African-Americans nearly two to one.

    Because of overall statewide growth, Florida was already set to get two new congressional districts. Political science professor Aubrey Jewett told WFTV it looks like one district will be in south Florida and the other in Central Florida; both are heavily Hispanic areas.

    "If it was drawn with a Hispanic majority, or even an influence district that's 25 to 30-percent Hispanic, you might see a Hispanic candidate run and Hispanic turnout increase quite a bit," Jewett said.

    Central Florida's Hispanic population, though, is primarily Latin-American or Puerto Rican and, unlike Cubans in south Florida, they tend to vote Democrat. However, what will really throw off future elections is that Hispanics may throw party affiliation out the window if another Hispanic is on the ballot.

    "Some research has shown that the ethnic tie can sometimes be stronger than the partisan ties," Jewett said.

    As for redistricting, the state legislature historically draws the lines to give advantage to the majority party. Two constitutional amendments, however, have been passed to cut down on that, and this time there will be more constraints on how those lines can be drawn.

    The counties with the biggest growth in the past decade were Flagler and Sumter counties. Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys, and Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, were the only Florida counties to show population declines.

    Census data shows the following population for select Florida cities: Jacksonville 821,784; Miami 399,457; Tampa 335,709; St. Petersburg 244,769; and Orlando, 238,300.

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