Florida, state in the southeastern United States, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, which is an arm of the ocean. Florida, sometimes called the Peninsula State, consists of a large low-lying peninsula and, in the northwest, a strip of land known as the panhandle. It is a region of low, rolling hills, vast swamps and marshes, numerous lakes, and extensive forests. Superimposed on this varied pattern of physical features are the farmlands, urban areas, transportation routes, and other cultural features that have transformed Florida from largely a wilderness area into one of the fastest-growing states in the Union. Florida entered the Union on March 3, 1845, as the 27th state. Beginning in the late 1800s development schemes brought a tide of new arrivals to the state, and the story of Florida since has been one of nearly continuous growth.
Between 1950 and 1970 Florida’s population experienced a phenomenal increase of 145 percent. Between 1970 and 1980 the population increased by another 43.4 percent, and by 32.7 percent between 1980 and 1990. Much of this increase was attributed to the large influx of people from elsewhere rather than natural increase. Many were people who had retired. Many were refugees from Cuba. Others came to work in the state’s new and expanding industries and to share in its general economic growth.
Tourism has been Florida’s major source of income for many years. Although it initially attracted visitors from the Northeastern states during the winter months, it is now a year-round vacationland visited by tourists from every state, Latin America, and also from Canada and other foreign countries. The state’s tourist attractions range from the vast expanse of the Everglades in the south to the historic cities of Saint Augustine and Pensacola in the north. The most popular attractions are the theme parks around Orlando and the many resort cities that rim the coast. Their importance is reflected in the distribution of the state’s inhabitants, most of whom live in cities along the coast or in a corridor stretching between Tampa and Daytona Beach and including Orlando. While Jacksonville on the northern Atlantic shore is the state’s largest city in population, the state’s largest metropolitan area centers on Miami, near the southern tip of the state. Tallahassee, in the panhandle, is Florida’s capital.
The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León called the region La Florida, roughly translated as Land of the Flowers, when he visited it in 1513. It is thought that he chose this name because he was impressed by the many colorful flowers of the region and because he sighted it on Easter, which is called Pascua Florida in Spanish. The state’s official nickname, the Sunshine State, reflects the economic importance of its climate, which has been called its most important natural resource. Among the other nicknames, all unofficial, are the Everglade State and the Orange State, for its most renowned crop.
Florida ranks 23rd among the states in size, covering 170,305 sq km (65,755 sq mi), including 12,100 sq km (4,672 sq mi) of inland water and 3,395 sq km (1,311 sq mi) of coastal water over which it has jurisdiction. The major part of the state is a peninsula that extends southward for some 610 km (380 mi) to Cape Sable, which at latitude 25°7’ north is the southernmost point of the United States mainland. The peninsula has an average width of about 200 km (about 125 mi). At the southern end of the peninsula the Florida Keys, a chain of small islands, or keys, curve southwestward from Biscayne Bay to the Dry Tortugas. Northern Florida includes a narrow panhandle stretching for about 300 km (about 200 mi) along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The state’s irregular shape gives it a large maximum extent: From north to south the state’s greatest distance is 724 km (450 mi); from east to west it is 758 km (471 mi).
Florida is a low-lying area with an average elevation of only 30 m (100 ft) above sea level. It ranks with Louisiana as the second lowest state in the Union, after Delaware. The highest point in Florida, a hill in the panhandle, is 105 m (345 ft) above sea level.
Florida lies wholly within two major natural regions: The Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Gulf Coastal Plain. The Atlantic Coastal Plain, in Florida, occupies most of the state and can be subdivided into two sections. The so-called Floridian section, or Florida peninsula, covers all of the region except the extreme northeast, where the Sea Island section extends into Florida from Georgia and the Carolinas.
The Floridian section lies south of a line joining the mouth of the Saint Johns River on the Atlantic Coast and Deadman Bay on the Gulf Coast. It is an extensive region of low, rolling hills and large swamps and marshes. South of Lake Okeechobee, much of the land is covered by the Everglades, a watery expanse of saw-grass prairie—which the Seminole termed Pay-hai-o-kee (“grassy water”)—dotted with cypress trees and Sabal palms, the state tree. To preserve the plant and animal life of the swamps, part of the Everglades has been set aside as the Everglades National Park.
To the east of the Everglades a low ridge of land several miles wide separates the freshwater swamps from the Atlantic Coast. Although the ridge is less than 3 m (10 ft) higher than the swamps, it is well drained and is the site of such south Florida cities as West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. A series of barrier islands, separated from the mainland by lagoons, rim the state’s Atlantic Coast. Miami Beach occupies one of these barrier islands. There is no continuous strip of higher land west of the Everglades, and the Everglades merge with a belt of saltwater mangrove swamps along the Gulf Coast.
North of Lake Okeechobee the interior of the peninsula is generally hilly and is pitted by numerous lakes. The highest hills are a little more than 90 m (300 ft) above sea level, but the area is sometimes called the Central Highlands or the Backbone of Florida. The hills are covered by grass and patches of palmettos, but extensive areas from Orlando and farther south have been cleared and planted with citrus groves. Part of the region is also sometimes called the lake district because of its numerous lakes. West of the lake district is an area known as the lime-sink district because of the many sinks, or natural basins, that occur in its limestone surface or subsurface. Small lakes have formed in some of the sinks.
The small part of the Sea Islands section in northeastern Florida is a flat, low-lying area. Okefenokee Swamp, a huge wilderness area on the Florida-Georgia state line, occupies much of the interior of the region. A wide belt of swamps and sandy ridges occupies the coastal regions. The largest area of well-drained land is a strip behind the mainland coastal beaches. A continuation of the ridge to the south, it rises up to 3 m (10 ft) above sea level and is mainly pine covered.
The Gulf Coastal Plain, in northwestern Florida, rises to 105 m (345 ft) above sea level, which is the highest point in the state, near the Alabama state line. From the low hills in the northern part of the panhandle the land slopes southward at the Cody Escarpment to extensive stretches of swamps, salt marshes, and pine forests that are found along the Gulf Coast.
|B||Rivers, Lakes, and Springs|
The Saint Johns River, measuring 459 km (285 mi), is Florida’s longest river. It rises near the Atlantic Coast at about the middle of the peninsula and then flows northward to the Atlantic Ocean, east of Jacksonville. In the 19th century the Saint Johns was a busy waterway for the greater part of its course. Now, however, dense mats of water hyacinth render navigation almost impossible on the river’s upper course. The water hyacinth, a beautiful aquatic plant with purple flowers, was accidentally introduced into the region in the 1880s, and it spread with alarming rapidity throughout the upper reaches of the river. The plant is very difficult to eradicate, and it has also clogged the channels of other Florida rivers. To increase drainage of the Everglades, which drain naturally to Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, a number of drainage channels and canals have been built across southern Florida.
Among the rivers flowing from the peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico are the Suwannee, Caloosahatchee, Peace, Hillsborough, and Withlacoochee. The Suwannee, famous as the Swanee River of Old Folks at Home by Stephen Foster, rises in Georgia and is navigable in its lower course. The Caloosahatchee River is also navigable and is connected with Lake Okeechobee by a dredged channel that forms part of the Okeechobee Waterway, also known as the Cross-State Canal.
In northwestern Florida several major rivers flow across the panhandle from neighboring Alabama and Georgia. Among them are the Perdido, the Escambia (Conecuh in Georgia), the Yellow, the Choctawhatchee, the Blackwater, and the Ochlockonee. The northwest is also crossed by the Apalachicola River, which is formed near the Georgia-Florida state line by the junction of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. The Apalachicola River forms the lower part of an extensive waterway for barges.
Florida has more than 7,000 lakes greater than 4 hectares (10 acres) in size, most of which are in the lake district of the Florida peninsula. The largest one in the state is Lake Okeechobee, which also is the fourth largest natural lake wholly within the United States. It covers an area of 1,717 sq km (663 sq mi). It is a shallow lake, with a maximum depth of 6 m (20 ft).
Florida is noted for its springs, many of which bubble up from large underground reservoirs. Their waters are usually warm, 21°C (70°F) or more, and are very clear. Some of the springs are inhabited by alligators and a variety of fish. Many are fringed with mosses and ferns and are overhung by hardwood trees. A number give rise to swift streams called runs. Springs are also a source of water for major rivers, such as the Saint Johns. The best-known springs are Rainbow Springs, near Dunnellon, and Silver Springs, near Ocala. Each of these springs pours out more than 1.9 billion liters (500 million gallons) a day. Wakulla Spring, near Tallahassee, which is 56 m (185 ft) deep, is Florida’s deepest spring.
Florida has the longest marine coastline of all the states after Alaska. The coastline is 2,173 km (1,350 mi) long, but, including all indentations and islands, it measures 13,560 km (8,426 mi). The Atlantic coast, or eastern coast, has few indentations. There is an outer arc of sandy Sea Islands, many of which have been developed as tourist resorts. Behind the beaches lie long, narrow saltwater lagoons, which are called rivers on parts of the Atlantic Coast. The longest such lagoon is Indian River, near Cape Canaveral. Indian River is sheltered from the ocean by the offshore barrier Sea Islands, and it forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway, which is used by small coastal vessels and pleasure boats. The best harbor on the Atlantic coast in Florida is the estuary of the Saint Johns River, near Jacksonville. Just south of Miami is Biscayne Bay. South of the bay lie the Florida Keys, separated from the mainland by Florida Bay.
The Gulf coast, or western coast, of Florida is deeply indented. Mangrove swamps, uninhabited islands, and miles of beach fringe the coast south of Naples. A number of sandy barrier islands extend from Fort Myers to Tarpon Springs. The islands reappear farther north, just west of Apalachee Bay, and they continue westward to the Alabama line. Behind them lie extensive stretches of swamp and marsh. Hillsborough Bay at Tampa forms the state’s finest harbor. It is protected from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico by a long line of offshore sandbars and islands. Other harbors similarly protected behind the barrier islands include Pensacola Bay, Choctawhatchee Bay, and Charlotte Harbor.
Florida’s climate has been called the state’s most valuable natural resource. Most of the state has a humid subtropical type of climate, but the southern tip of the peninsula has a more tropical climate. The climate attracts millions of tourists and permanent residents who seek sunshine and warmth all year, but particularly in winter. It is also important to growers of crops that are easily damaged by frost, such as citrus fruit and sugarcane.
In the wintertime southern Florida is one of the warmest places on the U.S. mainland. Average January temperatures there range from about 18° to 21°C (about 64° to 70°F). Daytime temperatures in winter are generally in the lower 20°s C (70°s F) at Miami and other southern coastal resorts. In northern Florida average January temperatures range from about 11° to 13°C (about 52° to 56°F). However, temperatures vary considerably from day to day, occasionally reaching well below freezing.
Summers are hot throughout the state. However, temperatures are generally no higher than in many northern cities, and ocean breezes tend to modify the climate in southernmost Florida. During summer, Miami has an average temperature in the upper 20°s C (lower 80°s F). Although the south is closer to the tropics, it has fewer very hot days each summer than does the north.
Rainfall ranges from more than 1,500 mm (60 in) in the Everglades and the northwest to about 970 mm (about 38 in) at Key West. However, rainfall varies considerably from year to year, and severe droughts and floods often occur. Most rain falls in summer, often during brief but heavy thundershowers. Snow rarely falls in the north and is almost unknown in the south.
Hurricanes frequently strike the state. Winds of hurricane force, accompanied by heavy rains and high seas, can cause widespread damage, especially in the south, where so much of the land is at or near sea level. However, modern construction techniques and an alert weather watch for potentially dangerous storms have helped reduce the losses of life and property caused by hurricanes. The risk is not gone, however; in August 1992 Hurricane Andrew ripped through southeastern Florida, killing 41. Cities in the area reported property damages in excess of $20 billion. In Homestead, near Miami, 90 percent of the city’s buildings sustained damage from the hurricane. In 2004 Florida experienced four hurricanes, the first time that many hurricanes have affected a state in a single season since Texas in 1886, according to the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane season lasts from late June to early November, but hurricanes occur most frequently in September.
Florida has one of the longest growing seasons, or frost-free periods, of all the states. It lasts all year at Key West, and it varies between 310 and 365 days on the peninsula south of New Smyrna Beach. Farther north it decreases to about 250 days in the hills of the panhandle.
Sandy soils, which are not productive unless fertilized, cover much of the state. Fortunately there are vast local supplies of fertilizer available in the phosphate deposits of the Florida peninsula. Well-drained sandy loams cover most of the lake district and are ideal for citrus groves. The best soils in the state are the muck and peat deposits of the southern peninsula, soil types derived from the decayed vegetation of the marshes and swamp forests. Used for growing vegetables, they can produce very large crop yields when they are properly cultivated. However, they require careful drainage, and in dry periods they need to be irrigated to prevent them from drying out and shrinking due to oxidation. Parts of the dry strip of land along the Atlantic coast and the lower Keys have hardly any topsoil at all.
Florida is noted for its variety of trees and other plant life. Some trees and plants are native to the state, but various species have been introduced from other areas of the world, particularly from the tropics. Some of these introduced species, such as melaleuca, cogon grass, and Brazilian pepper, have become serious pests in natural areas and agricultural lands. The northern half of the state lies in the great belt of evergreen forests that occupies much of the Coastal Plain south of Virginia. The southern part of the state, however, is one of the few areas of the United States where subtropical ferns, trees, and flowering plants flourish.
The principal species of pine in Florida are longleaf, loblolly, and slash pines. Florida has some of the largest remaining longleaf pine forests, which once covered large areas of the southeastern Coastal Plain. Palm trees are found throughout the state. The Sabal palm, or cabbage palmetto, is the state tree. Other palms include a number that are imported, such as coconut and date palms. The bald cypress, pond cypress, black gum, or black tupelo, and water oak grow well in swampy, poorly drained areas. The live oak, so named because unlike other oaks it retains its leaves throughout the year, grows throughout the state. Gray-green Spanish moss festoons trees, especially the live oak and cypress, in moist areas throughout Florida. Among the many unusual trees found in Florida, especially in the southern part of the state, are the strangler fig, mahogany, gumbo-limbo, and sausage. The red mangrove is the principal species in the dense thickets of plant life in the swampy lands along the coast.
Native flowering plants of note include the southern magnolia, Jamaica dogwood, Spanish bayonet, and rhododendron. Imported plants such as the hibiscus, royal poinciana, bougainvillea, gardenia, and camellia flourish in the warm southern region. The blossom of the orange tree is the state flower.
The Everglades and cypress swamps of southern Florida provide one of the last refuges in the eastern United States for a number of wild animals. Among the most rarely seen there is the so-called Florida panther; the only cougar found east of the Mississippi today, it is classified as an endangered species and protected by state and federal law. The black bear is numerous in northern forests. The white-tailed deer is common throughout the state. The tiny Key deer, found only in the lower Keys, is protected by state and federal law. Other animals in the state include the gray squirrel, fox squirrel, cottontail rabbit, marsh rabbit, gray fox, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, and nine-banded armadillo. Wild pigs, descendants of domestic hogs that escaped into the wilderness, are found in some swampy areas. The manatee, or sea cow, a marine animal that was once hunted almost to extinction, is still occasionally seen along the bays and river estuaries of Florida.
Reptiles flourish in Florida. Alligators are numerous in the rivers, lakes, and swamps throughout the state, and occasionally, crocodiles are seen in coastal inlets at the southern tip of the peninsula. Both are protected by law, but a limited harvest of alligators is permitted. Snakes are found in large numbers, but only a few species are poisonous. They are the coral snake, the water moccasin, or cottonmouth, and two species of rattlesnakes. Marine turtles are found along the coast, and land turtles are sometimes seen inland.
An estimated 400 species of birds are native to Florida. Among the water birds found there are the roseate spoonbill, the anhinga, or water turkey, several species of egrets, and herons. The brown pelican is common, and the white pelican is occasionally seen soaring effortlessly in the sky. Florida also has many species of vireos, warblers, hawks, and sparrows. The mockingbird is Florida’s state bird. Among the unusual or rare birds of Florida are the white-crowned pigeon, the mangrove cuckoo, and the Florida jay, which has never been recorded outside of Florida. Major game birds include the turkey, mourning dove, bobwhite quail, and waterfowl such as ducks and geese.
Saltwater fish along Florida’s coasts include the barracuda, sailfish, tarpon, bonefish, pompano, black mullet, red snapper, gray snapper, menhaden, marlin, wahoo, weakfish, amberjack, sea bass, and snook. Most of them are game or food fish. In addition, many brightly colored tropical fish are found in Florida waters, and dolphins and sharks are common along both coasts. Freshwater fish include the black bass, speckled perch, bream, and bluegill. Shellfish include shrimp, crab, spiny lobster, oyster, scallop, conch, and coquina (small clams). The most substantial bed of living corals in the United States outside Hawaii is found along the southern tip of the peninsula and off the Florida Keys.
The state and federal governments maintain a number of programs for the conservation of Florida’s natural resources, particularly forests, fisheries, wildlife, soils, and water supply. In 1993 the Florida legislature combined the state departments of natural resources and environmental regulation into the Department of Environmental Protection. The new department is responsible for all aspects of protection and conservation. Federal agencies active in the state include the United States Forest Service, which administers the national forests, and the National Park Service. In 2006 the state had 50 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Between 1995 and 2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment increased by 27 percent.
Florida’s extensive pine forests were once seriously depleted by over-cutting and by improper methods for obtaining turpentine from the trees. However, their economic value has been restored through reforestation efforts.
Soil erosion is not a major problem in most of Florida. Only the northwestern corner of the panhandle has suffered serious erosion. However, in the Everglades, hundreds of acres of valuable peat and muck soil have been destroyed by overdraining or burned as a result of accidental fire in drained swamplands.
As one of the wettest states in the nation, Florida has ample supplies of water. Most of the annual rainfall seeps down through the limestone rock, where it makes its way slowly to the sea through deep underground reservoirs. The state’s water supply comes primarily from wells that tap these vast underground reservoirs. In some coastal areas the underground freshwater reserves have been overdrawn and contaminated by intruding salt water. Where excessive amounts of water have been pumped out to supply the rapidly growing urban centers, the level of water in the natural reservoirs has been lowered and salt water from the sea has filtered in. In an effort to prevent this saltwater intrusion, the legislature enacted the 1957 Water Resources Law to develop a system of water rights allocation. The program also included provisions for implementing a number of flood control and drainage projects in the state.
Oil spills and stream pollution by inadequately treated waste have created new concern for preserving a wholesome water supply. Both public and private agencies are now seeking ways of avoiding further pollution of Florida waters, but much remains to be done.
Farming has been important to Florida’s economy ever since the Spanish introduced citrus fruit, sugarcane, and cattle into Florida in the middle of the 18th century. These three industries are still important to the state. Late in the 18th century, the British introduced the plantation system of agriculture to Florida to produce indigo and cotton, but the indigo plant is no longer cultivated and cotton, although still grown, is no longer a significant crop. The state’s vast pine forests have been a source of pitch and tar, called naval stores, as early as the 16th century, and lumbering became important in the 19th century.
In the late 19th century, Florida’s tourist industry began to develop, with the construction of railroads and resort facilities. In the 20th century tourism became the largest single source of income for the state. Manufacturing in Florida developed in the 20th century, and by the beginning of the 21st century it had been greatly diversified and expanded.
The largest contributor to Florida’s economy in 1999 was the services sector, which contributed 77 percent of the state’s gross product. It includes such industries as finance, insurance, real estate, and retail trade. A cornerstone of this commerce is the tourism industry. Much of the service industry is devoted to meeting the needs of tourists; retail outlets cater to tourists for a significant proportion of their sales, and the real estate and finance industries construct developments to entice tourists to stay or at least spend part of the year in Florida.
Florida had a work force of 8,989,000 people in 2006. The largest share of them, 42 percent, were employed in the diverse service sector doing such things as working in restaurants or data processing. Another 22 percent were employed in wholesale or retail trade; 14 percent in federal, state, or local government; 23 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 5 percent in manufacturing; 7 percent in construction; 20 percent in transportation or public utilities; and 2 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing. Just 0.1 percent held jobs in the mining industry. In 2005, 5 percent of Florida’s workers were unionized. The state has a right-to-work law, which prohibits union membership as a condition of employment.
In 2005 there were 42,500 farms in Florida. Just 38 percent of them had annual sales of more than $10,000. Many of the rest were part-time operations for people who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 4 million hectares (10 million acres). Of that land 36 percent was planted in crops, and the rest was mostly pasture. Some 44 percent of the cropland was irrigated.
The sale of crops accounted for 78 percent of Florida’s farm income in 2004. The sale of livestock and livestock products accounted for the remaining 22 percent. The principal crops are oranges and other citrus fruit, greenhouse and nursery products, tomatoes and other vegetables, and sugarcane. Livestock raised in Florida include beef and dairy cattle, chickens for eggs and meat, hogs, and Thoroughbred horses.
|A1||Patterns of Farming|
In the Florida panhandle, where commercial agriculture is not a major activity, livestock, cotton, peanuts, and other crops are raised on a relatively small scale. Farther east and southeast, in the northern part of the peninsula, agriculture is more important. In this area the chief crops are tobacco, peanuts, cotton, and vegetables. Dairy cattle and chickens are also raised. In central Florida, the leading crops are oranges and other citrus fruits. However, this area is also noted for its vegetable farms, ornamental horticulture, cattle ranches, and horse farms. In south central and southern Florida, the principal crops are vegetables and sugarcane. Cattle are also raised.
Florida leads all other states in the production of citrus fruits. Each year the state accounts for two-thirds of the total U.S. citrus crop. It ranks first in the nation in the production of oranges and grapefruit. Other kinds of citrus fruits grown include tangerines, tangelos, and limes. The fruits are grown in groves that generally cover less than 8 hectares.
The preferred land for growing citrus fruit is the rolling lake district of the central Florida peninsula, where the numerous bodies of water retain their warmth in cold weather and help reduce frost hazards. The gently sloping terrain causes cold air to sink into hollows below the level of the fruit. Most citrus in Florida is grown without irrigation, but sprinkler systems are used to irrigate the groves during especially dry years. These systems also supply water for spraying the fruit during brief episodes of below-freezing, nighttime temperatures. The water freezes on the citrus fruit and insulates the fruit’s interior.
Hard freezes, which are especially damaging to the citrus crop, have occurred at least once a decade in the last 100 years. Two hard freezes in the 1980s caused farmers north of Lakeland and Orlando to abandon growing citrus fruits in their groves, and the industry has been slowly shifting southward ever since. In the past the shipment to market of low-quality fruit, damaged by freezes, caused disastrous price slumps and often ruined citrus growers. However, strict market control by the Florida Citrus Commission over quantity and quality of fruit sold now helps to keep up prices after severe winters. Also very damaging to the crop is the tiny Mediterranean fruit fly, which has threatened Florida many times in the second half of the 20th century. The Florida citrus market is also challenged by overseas competition, especially from Brazil where orange-juice producers aggressively expanded their markets in the 1990s.
Sugarcane is extremely sensitive to frost, and where frosts occur, it must be replanted every year. The southernmost part of Florida is one of the few places in the mainland United States where such replanting is not necessary. Six to seven crops may be obtained from one planting. The city of Clewiston, on the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee, is the center of Florida’s sugarcane cultivation. Production was expanded after 1961, when the United States stopped importing Cuban sugar because of political differences.
|A4||Vegetables and Noncitrus Fruits|
Florida is noted for the production of early vegetables and fruit. The growing of vegetables and fruit for sale early in the year is a modern development that owes its advance in part to the demand for fresh vegetables in states north of Florida. Florida’s warm near-tropical climate allows its farmers to produce crops earlier than farmers in most other states and thus to obtain good prices in cities north of Florida. Tomatoes are the most valuable winter crop, and potatoes, sweet corn, celery, carrots, and lettuce are also grown.
Watermelons are a valuable summer crop in Florida and, like early vegetables, they are shipped mainly to Northern cities. Strawberries are another important crop. The Plant City area, east of Tampa Bay, is the center for strawberry cultivation. Together with Sanford, it is also a leading celery-producing center. Cucumbers are grown mainly in northern Florida, and early white potatoes are a specialty of the Hastings area. Among the other kinds of fruit grown in Florida are avocados, figs, persimmons, guavas, mangoes, pineapples, peaches, and grapes.
Florida is one of the major cattle-raising states east of the Mississippi River. The rolling grassland in central Florida is the heart of the beef cattle country. Rodeos, ranches, and cowboys there provide an atmosphere more characteristic of the West than of the Atlantic Coast. Dairying meets the demand for fresh milk and other dairy products within the state. Thoroughbred horses are also raised in large numbers. Most of the stud farms are in the Ocala area of north central Florida. Poultry raising is an important, growing segment of the state’s livestock industry. Some hogs and sheep are also raised in Florida.
|A6||Other Agricultural Products|
Tobacco is grown mainly in northern Florida. Cultivation began in the 1920s, after the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crop. The city of Live Oak is the leading tobacco market. Tung trees, whose nuts yield an oil used in paints and varnishes, are also grown in northern Florida. Flowers and foliage plants are grown in greenhouses and nurseries in the central and southern parts of the state.
Florida’s principal fishing ports are Pensacola and Apalachicola on the Gulf Coast, Fernandina Beach and New Smyrna Beach on the Atlantic coast, and Key West. Pink shrimp, which is landed mainly from Tampa to Key West, is the most valuable seafood in the south. White and brown shrimp are landed in Apalachicola Bay. Other fish and shellfish caught commercially include lobster, red snapper, grouper, king and Spanish mackerel, black mullet, weakfish, and blue and stone crab. In addition, there are oyster beds in Apalachicola Bay. Florida is also the principal U.S. source of sponges, but overfishing and the onset of a sponge disease in the 1940s greatly reduced Florida’s sponge output.
Sport fishing is popular in Florida. It is an important tourist lure and an important source of income in many communities. Game fish abound in the state’s inshore and offshore waters. Lake Okeechobee, the chief fresh water fishing area, is noted for black bass. The Florida Keys are known for a variety of oceanic fish species including tarpon, marlin, snapper, and grouper.
Forests cover 47 percent of Florida’s total land area. The state’s pine forests were noted in earlier centuries as a source of lumber and of pitch and tar, called naval stores, and in the 19th century they were greatly depleted. However, new forests were planted on much of the cutover land. Lumbering activities in the state have greatly expanded since the 1940s.
Phosphate rock is the most important mineral mined in Florida, and Florida leads the nation in its production. The phosphate occurs in shallow beds in central and northern Florida, and the center of the industry is in Bartow near Lakeland. Most of it is used in fertilizers.
Petroleum and natural gas became two of Florida’s most important minerals after the discovery of a large oil field north of Pensacola in 1970. By the mid-1980s, most of these oil and gas reserves were virtually depleted. However, it is believed that significant deposits may lie below the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico, particularly off the state’s northwestern coast. Despite pressure from oil and gas companies to secure leases for exploratory drilling, the state government refuses to permit drilling within 160 km (100 mi) of the Florida coast and strongly opposes all offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Other leading minerals include stone, cement, clays, and sand and gravel.
Florida accounts for most of the nation’s production of zircon, which is used in making furnace brick and electronic equipment. The state ranks first in the production of titanium concentrates, which are used in the manufacture of white pigments for paint. Florida also ranks first in the output of masonry cement and peat.
Florida’s manufacturing and processing industries have expanded rapidly since the 1950s. In 2007 manufacturing employed 4.7 percent of the workers in the state. The major manufacturing centers are metropolitan Jacksonville, Tampa, and Miami. There are also many factories in smaller communities. The principal industry in terms of income generated is the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment. Other leading industries include the manufacture of processed foods, instruments, printed materials, transportation equipment, chemicals, and industrial machinery.
The development during the 1950s of the Cape Canaveral area as a missile testing and launching center spurred the growth of many electronics and other engineering plants in eastern Florida. Also manufactured are radios and televisions, telephones, laser equipment, and semiconductors.
Foodstuffs made in Florida include dairy products, meat products, seafood, and a wide variety of other products. Frozen juice concentrate accounts for a large percentage of the citrus crop. The waste peel and pulp are made into cattle feed. Other citrus by-products include citrus peel oils, wines, marmalades, and jellies. Polk County, east of Tampa, is one of the principal citrus-processing centers in Florida. Vegetables and noncitrus fruit are also processed in small towns throughout the state.
Instruments for search and navigation purposes are products in Florida’s manufacturing sector. The printing industry centers on companies publishing newspapers and periodicals, although commercial printing for businesses has grown. Firms building and repairing ships and boats are the leading employers in the transportation equipment sector, joined by the manufactures of aircraft and aircraft parts, guided missiles and space vehicles, and bodies for trucks and buses.
Florida’s chemical manufactures include numerous phosphate compounds. In addition, by-products of the wood pulp and paper industry are used in the output of oils, rosins, fatty acids, plastics, and other chemicals.
Industrial machinery makers in Florida include firms making computers and machines used to package other products. Manufactures of fabricated metals are diverse, making things such as structural metal components, metal cans used in fruit and vegetable processing, and sheet metals.
Florida’s forests are a source of wood used in the manufacture of wood pulp, paper, and paperboard. Naval stores, including turpentine, lumber for construction, and many wood products are also produced.
Cigar making is one of the state’s oldest and best known industries. Ybor City, a section of Tampa, has been the principal cigar-making center since the 1880s. Cigars and other tobacco products are also manufactured in Jacksonville. However, many cigar plants were closed during the early 1960s, as a result of the U.S. embargo on Cuban goods, which cut off supplies of Cuban tobacco.
Thermal generating stations produce 84 percent of the electric power in Florida. These power plants are fueled by coal, petroleum, or natural gas piped in from as far away as Texas. In 1972 and 1973, two nuclear power plants began operating at Turkey Point on Biscayne Bay near Miami. Three other nuclear plants, two on Hutchinson Island near Fort Pierce and the other at Crystal River on the Gulf Coast, began supplying power in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The nuclear plants combined produce 13 percent of the electricity generated in the state.
Most of the state’s electric power is generated and distributed by four major private utility companies. In addition, a number of cities provide their own utility services, and there are cooperative power companies in the rural areas of the state.
Tourism is a vital component of Florida’s economy. With its warm temperatures, numerous beaches, and many attractions, the state draws millions of people each year. Money from tourism is the largest single source of income for Floridians. Tourists spent $54.5 billion when visiting Florida in 2002.
South Florida is among the most popular destinations for tourists, particularly Miami and Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and the West Palm Beach area. Other major resorts include Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Saint Petersburg, Panama City, Pensacola, and many others. The internationally known theme parks near Orlando, clustered around Walt Disney World, annually attract more than 40 million visitors. Tourism has also indirectly spurred expansion of the state’s construction industry as hotels, motels, and restaurants are built to accommodate tourists.
The development and expansion of transportation facilities in Florida have played a major role in the state’s economic expansion. There are 194,018 km (120,557 mi) of highways, including 2,367 km (1,471 mi) of interstate highway, in the state. Principal north-south routes are interstates 95 in the east and 75 in the west. Interstate 10 spans the panhandle region. Other major routes are Florida’s Turnpike, formerly known as the Sunshine State Parkway, which connects Interstate 75 north of Orlando with heavily populated South Florida. The southernmost leg of Interstate 75, sometimes known as “Alligator Alley,” crosses the Everglades and connects Naples with Fort Lauderdale. United States Highway 1 extends south from Jacksonville, parallels Interstate 95 all the way to Miami, and then forms the lifeline of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West by connecting the dozens of islands that form the keys.
Railroads played a central role in the development of Florida beginning in the 1880s. In 2004 the state had 4,571 km (2,840 mi) of railroad track. Some 63 percent of the tonnage of goods hauled by rail and originating in the state are nonmetallic minerals. Amtrak operates three long-distance passenger routes.
In 2007 Florida had 25 airports, some of which were private airfields. The largest is Miami International, one of the busiest in the nation and a primary point of entry into the United States from the Caribbean and Central and South America. Other major airports in the state include Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, Palm Beach International, Tampa International, and Orlando International.
Although steamboats gave way to railroads as the major form of transportation in Florida during the 1880s, the state’s canals, lakes, and rivers are still widely used for pleasure boating and shipping. More than 1,900 km (1,200 mi) of the Intracoastal Waterway, a toll-free federal waterway for coastal vessels and pleasure craft, extend around the coast of Florida except in the southwest between Fort Myers and the Florida Keys.
Two unusual forms of tourist transportation are used in the Everglades. The flat-bottomed airboat, powered by an airplane engine and propeller, can skim across the shallow waters and swamp grasses. The marsh buggy, a truck with large balloon tires, can go across rough ground and the extensive swamplands of the Everglades.
Tampa, on the Gulf coast, is Florida’s chief port by tonnage due to its phosphate exports. Jacksonville is the leader in dollar value as it is a major destination for automobile imports. Miami is the nation’s leading port for cruise ships. Other major ports are Canaveral Harbor and Port Everglades, the deepwater port for Fort Lauderdale.
Overseas trade is of major importance. Florida trades mainly with Latin American countries and also exports citrus fruit to Canada and Europe. Leading exports are phosphate rock, fertilizers, foodstuffs, paper products, machinery, motor vehicles, iron and steel scrap, and wood pulp. Chief imports are petroleum products, chemicals, clays, cement and other building materials, limestone, foodstuffs, motor vehicles, steel mill products, and paper products.
Peter O. Muller reviewed the Economy section of this article.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA|
Since 1920 Florida has been among the four fastest-growing states in the Union. Its population in 2000 was more than 16 times the size of the 1920 population of 968,470. According to the 2000 national census, Florida ranked fourth among the states, with a total population of 15,982,378 (an increase of 23.5 percent over the 1990 total of 12,937,926). In 2006 the average population density was 130 persons per sq km (335 per sq mi).
The population is not evenly distributed. Some 89 percent of the population live in urban areas, and the remainder live in small communities in rural areas. Most people reside in towns and cities along the coast. The center of the peninsula and the western panhandle support a fairly large rural population, but large areas of southern Florida, including most of the Everglades and many offshore islands along the Gulf coast, are practically uninhabited.
People over the age of 65 made up 18 percent of the state’s population in 1997, compared with the national average of 13 percent. Many older people from the rest of the nation and also some from Canada move to Florida after they have retired.
In 2000 whites comprised the largest share of the population, representing 78 percent of the people. Blacks were 14.6 percent of the population, Asians were 1.7 percent, Native Americans were 0.3 percent, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders were 0.1 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race were 5.3 percent. Hispanics, who may be of any race, were 16.8 percent of the population. Many of the Hispanics in Florida are Cubans or their descendants who left the island nation before or soon after a revolution there in the late 1950s. Others came during the early 1980s when Cuba temporarily lifted exit restrictions.
Many of the Native Americans now in Florida are descended from the Seminole, who retreated into the Everglades following the end of the second Seminole War in 1842. One group lives on a reservation in the swamps north and east of Lake Okeechobee. Another group occupies a reservation in the Big Cypress Swamp, northwest of the Everglades. In 1957 the Native Americans set up the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., and established their first constitutional government since 1848.
Jacksonville, since it consolidated with all but three of the communities in Duval County in 1968, is the most populous city in Florida, with an estimated 2006 population of 794,555. It is the major northern Florida city and an important seaport, and has an extensive financial and insurance industry. The Miami metropolitan area, which is coextensive with Miami-Dade County, had a population of 2.2 million, of whom 404,048 lived in Miami proper. Combined with the adjoining Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area, the population was 3.9 million in 2000. Miami is the principal commercial and manufacturing city in the state. The Miami area is the major center for Florida’s Hispanic population, who make up three-fifths of the local population.
The Tampa-Saint Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, with 2.7 million people, is the largest urban complex on the Gulf coast. Orlando, with 220,186 inhabitants, serves a metropolitan area of 2 million. It is a recreation destination for people from around the world, a major citrus marketing center, and has many industries related to the space program on nearby Cape Canaveral. Tallahassee, the capital city, has a population of 159,012. Daytona Beach and Palm Beach are important Atlantic urban centers and beach resorts. Key West, the southernmost city, and Pensacola both have U.S. naval facilities. Saint Augustine is the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited city.
The early history of Florida was marked by religious conflict, which was linked to the national rivalry between Spain and England. Under Spanish rule, which began in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church was the established church in Florida. Protestantism was first introduced by French Huguenots in 1562. After 1763, when Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain, the Church of England was the official religion.
The Roman Catholic Church makes up the largest religious group, especially in Miami, Tampa, Pensacola, Saint Augustine, and other cities with large numbers of Spanish American residents. The parish of the Cathedral of Saint Augustine, which was organized shortly after the city was founded in 1565, is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in the United States. Baptists and Methodists are the leading Protestant groups. In addition, there are large Jewish congregations in Miami and nearby communities, as well as in other large cities.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
Before the American Civil War (1861-1865), Florida had few public schools. The development of public education in the state was given impetus after the war, when the federal government established schools for freed slaves. In 1868 a new state constitution included a provision authorizing a statewide system of public education. In 1869 a state board of education was created.
A great effort to improve the public school system was begun in 1947 with the adoption of the minimum foundation program. The program makes state funds available to each county that needs money to provide a minimum school term of 180 days and a satisfactory minimum quality of education for each child.
School attendance in Florida is compulsory from age 6 through 16. Most of Florida’s private and parochial schools are maintained by the Roman Catholic Church. Some 12 percent of Florida’s children attend private schools.
In the 2002–2003 school year Florida spent $7,773 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 17.9 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state, 84.5 percent had a high school diploma, while the nation as a whole averaged 84.1 percent.
The University of Florida, in Gainesville, one of the oldest and largest schools of higher learning in the state, was started in 1853 at Ocala as the East Florida Seminary. It is now part of the state system of higher education. This system also includes Florida State University, in Tallahassee; the University of South Florida, in Tampa; Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, in Tallahassee; University of West Florida, in Pensacola; Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton; University of Central Florida, in Orlando; University of North Florida, in Jacksonville; and the Florida International University, in Miami. A tenth state school, Florida Gulf Coast University, opened in 1997 near Fort Myers.
In 2004–2005 Florida had 40 public and 123 private institutions of higher learning. Noted private schools included Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach; Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne; Jacksonville University; Rollins College in Winter Park; Stetson University in De Land; and the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
The first public library in the state was the Jacksonville Public Library, which was established in 1905. There are now 72 tax-supported public library systems. Each year the public libraries circulate an average of 5.3 books for every resident. Many libraries are maintained by colleges and universities, professional institutions, and historical and other associations. Noted collections on Florida history are held by the State Library of Florida, in Tallahassee; the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, at the University of Florida; and the Saint Augustine Historical Society.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, at Sarasota, has a noted collection of works by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens and other European masters. It also houses a Museum of the Circus, in honor of John Ringling, the famous circus owner. There are also art galleries and art museums in West Palm Beach, Clearwater, Miami, and Saint Petersburg. The Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, has numerous historical and scientific exhibits and houses the noted Key Marco Collection of Native American artifacts. A number of small museums throughout the state are devoted to special subjects, such as marine life, seashells, archaeology, and Native American artifacts. The Salvador Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg exhibits works reflecting impressionist and cubist styles, Dalí’s transition period, the famous surrealist works for which he is best known, and his later “classic” works, which show his preoccupation with religion, history, and science.
Some 43 daily newspapers are published in Florida. The East Florida Gazette, founded at Saint Augustine in 1783, was Florida’s first newspaper. The Florida Union, founded at Jacksonville in 1864, is now the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, and it is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the state. The Miami Herald, a nationally prominent newspaper, is known for its extensive coverage of the Caribbean. Other major newspapers include the Sun-Sentinel, published in Fort Lauderdale; the Orlando Sentinel; the Saint Petersburg Times; the Tampa Tribune; and the Spanish-language Diario Las Américas, published in Miami.
The first radio station in Florida, WQAM, was established in Miami in 1921. The state’s first television station, WTVJ, began broadcasting in Miami in 1949. In 2002 there were 151 AM and 172 FM radio stations in the state and 66 television stations.
|E||Music and Theater|
Several of the larger cities and most of the colleges and universities in Florida support symphony orchestras. Among the most popular music festivals held each year in the state are the Bach Festival, at Rollins College in Winter Park, and the Florida International Festival, in Daytona Beach, featuring the London Symphony Orchestra.
Community theater groups are found in most of the state’s larger cities, and there are professional theaters in Miami, Daytona Beach, and Palm Beach. The Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts, in Sarasota, is home to the Asolo Theatre Company.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES TO VISIT|
Florida is renowned as one of the country’s most popular vacationlands, and almost the entire state is oriented toward the numerous forms of recreation available. Among the most popular are water sports, including swimming, boating, water-skiing, and fishing. Other diversions offered include hunting, golf, tennis, jai alai, polo, horse racing, dog racing, automobile racing, baseball, and rodeos. In addition, many areas in the state have been set aside by the federal and state governments for recreation and conservation.
The principal national park in the state, Everglades National Park (566,116 hectares/1,398,903 acres), is a vast wilderness area covering the southern tip of the peninsula. Adjoining the Everglades is Big Cypress National Preserve. Biscayne National Park includes dozens of islands and keys in Biscayne Bay, south of Miami. Canaveral National Seashore is north of Kennedy Space Center. Gulf Islands National Seashore is south of Pensacola.
The oldest existing masonry fort in the United States lies within Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The national monument is in the historic city of Saint Augustine. South of the city is Fort Matanzas National Monument. On Tampa Bay is De Soto National Memorial, which commemorates the landing in Florida in 1539 of the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Fort Caroline National Memorial, near Jacksonville, lies near the site of the second French settlement in the present United States. Fort Jefferson is located in Dry Tortugas National Park, 105 km (65 mi) west of Key West. It is the largest all-masonry fortification in the Western world.
There are three national forests in Florida, the largest of which is Apalachicola National Forest. Apalachicola lies in the center of the Florida panhandle, in a picturesque region of swamps, lakes, and rivers. Osceola National Forest, the smallest, also lies in the north. Farther south, in the lake district, is Ocala National Forest. It is a vast wilderness area of pines and other trees and springs and lakes. Many national wilderness areas are located in Florida’s national forests, including Big Gum Swamp.
Among the six National Wildlife Refuges in Florida is Pelican Island, noted as the country’s first such refuge, established in 1903. From this beginning has grown a National Wildlife Refuge System of nearly 500 refuges encompassing about 38 million hectares (93 million acres). The waters and wetlands of Pelican Island support a major ecological system that sustains hundreds of species of birds, fish, plants, and mammals.
|C||State Parks and Forests|
Florida state forests cover 6.7 million hectares (16.5 million acres). They include Cary, Pine Log, and Blackwater River state forests, all of which lie in northern Florida, and Myakka River State Forest, which is located in the south-central part of the state.
Florida’s 110 state parks include facilities for water sports, picnicking, and other recreational activities. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Myakka River State Park are the largest. The former, near Key Largo, covers 22,667 hectares (56,011 acres), and is 95 percent underwater. It includes 40 species of living coral and a variety of colorful tropical fish. Among the other state parks are Florida Caverns State Park, near Marianna, Cape Florida State Recreation Area on Key Biscayne, and Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area, near Melbourne.
Numerous state historic memorials are scattered across Florida. Among the more notable is Constitution Convention State Museum, at Port Saint Joe in western Florida, which stands near the site of Florida’s first constitutional convention. Stephen Foster State Folk Cultural Center, on the Suwannee River, has a museum and carillon tower honoring the famous composer.
|D||Other Places to Visit|
Marineland of Florida, on the coast between Saint Augustine and Daytona Beach, is the world’s first oceanarium. It includes saltwater tanks containing live porpoises, sharks, whales, and other rarely seen forms of marine life. There are similar marine life aquariums at Miami, Islamorada, Titusville, Saint Petersburg Beach, and near Fort Walton Beach. Saint Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, situated near Saint Augustine, has one of the largest collections of captive alligators in the world. Hialeah Park, in Miami, is one of the country’s famous horse-racing tracks. In North Miami Beach is a reassembled 11th-century monastery from Spain. It is a major tourist attraction.
Places of interest noted for their exotic plant and animal collections include Busch Gardens, in Tampa; Caribbean Gardens, near Naples; Parrot Jungle and Gardens, near Miami; and Everglades Wonder Gardens, near Bonita Springs. Recreational centers that have excellent plant life collections include Cape Coral Gardens; Fairchild Tropical Gardens, near Miami; and Cypress Gardens, in Winter Haven. Among the many outstanding natural springs located in Florida are Wakulla Springs, the deepest at 56 m (185 ft), near Tallahassee, Silver Springs, and Blue Springs.
The Oldest House, in Saint Augustine, is believed to date from late in the 16th century. The winter home of Thomas A. Edison in Fort Myers is also the site of a laboratory that was used by the inventor. The Mountain Lake Sanctuary, near Lake Wales, contains Bok Tower Gardens. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kennedy Space Center, at Cape Canaveral, is a major tourist attraction. In 1971 Walt Disney World, with its giant amusement park, opened just south of Orlando. Disney World has expanded since then, and with other theme parks in the area, including Sea World and Universal Studios, has made the Orlando region a major tourist destination.
Florida’s professional sports teams include the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars football teams; the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic basketball teams; the Florida (Miami) Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey teams; and the Florida Marlins (Miami) and Tampa Bay Rays baseball teams. Many major league baseball teams also conduct their spring training and play preseason games in Florida. The Daytona 500 stock-car race is held every February in Daytona Beach.
Major football games are played in Florida each New Year’s Day in the Orange Bowl at Miami, in the Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando, and in the Holiday Bowl in Saint Petersburg. Another event that is held annually in February is Old Island Days in Key West. The Florida Citrus Exposition is also in February, at Winter Haven. The Florida State Fair, in Tampa, is also held in February.
Presentations of the Black Hills Passion Play are given from mid-February until mid-April in an outdoor amphitheater near Lake Wales. Major automobile races are held at Sebring in March and at Daytona Beach in February and July. The four-day-long Seaside Fiesta is held at New Smyrna Beach in late April or early May. The Kingfish Derby, in March and April, and the Tarpon Round-Up, from May 1 to July 31, are held at Saint Petersburg. Later in the summer the Florida International Music Festival is held in Daytona Beach.
Florida’s sixth and present constitution was adopted in 1968. Amendments may be proposed by a three-fifths majority of each house of the state legislature, by a commission appointed to amend the constitution, by a petition of voters, or by a constitutional convention. To become effective, amendments must be approved by the voters of the state.
The constitution provides for an executive branch of government headed by a governor, who is elected for a four-year term and who is limited to two consecutive terms. A lieutenant governor is elected on a joint ticket with the governor. The cabinet is made up of a secretary of state, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture, and commissioner of education. The cabinet officers are elected for four-year terms and may succeed themselves. Many duties normally executed by the chief executive in other states are carried out in Florida by boards and commissions made up of various combinations of cabinet members and the governor. This “cabinet system” gives Florida a comparatively weak governor whose authority is shared with independently elected administrative officials. At the time of election the governor, the lieutenant governor, and each cabinet member must be at least 30 years of age and must have been a state resident for the preceding seven years. The attorney general must also have been a member of the Florida Bar for the preceding five years. The governor may veto legislation, but a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature may override his veto.
The state legislature consists of a 40-member Senate and a 120-member House of Representatives. State senators are elected for four-year terms, half of them every two years. State representatives are elected for two-year terms.
The legislature meets each year in Tallahassee for 60 days. The governor may call 20-day special sessions. The length of regular or special sessions may be extended by a three-fifths majority vote in each house.
The highest court in Florida is the Supreme Court. There are seven justices who select a chief justice from their ranks by popular vote. Justices are appointed by the governor from a list of people recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission. When justices’ terms expire, their names appear on the general election ballot for a merit retention vote, if they wish to remain in office. The Supreme Court hears cases including final orders imposing death sentences and district court decisions declaring a state statute or provision of the state constitution invalid.
Lower courts include district courts of appeal, circuit courts, county judges’ courts, county courts, criminal courts of record, juvenile courts, civil courts of record, small claims courts, and municipal courts.
Florida is divided into 67 counties, most of which are administered by a board of five elected commissioners. The county commissioners are responsible for matters at the county level, including local elections, taxes, public welfare, and education. Other elected county officials include a county judge, sheriff, tax assessor, tax collector, superintendent of public instruction, and surveyor.
Most of the larger cities in Florida are governed under the council and city manager form of municipal government. Notable exceptions are Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa, which have the mayor and council form of municipal government. Some cities, such as Jacksonville and Miami, have municipal governments that are wholly or partially consolidated with the governments of the counties in which they are located.
Florida elects two U.S. senators and 25 members of the House of Representatives. The state casts 27 electoral votes in presidential elections.
There were an estimated 350,000 Native Americans in what is now Florida when Europeans first arrived early in the 16th century. They belonged to three major nations, the Calusa along the southwestern coast, the Timucua in the northern half of the peninsula, and the Apalachee where the peninsula joins the panhandle. Peoples dominated by the Calusa lived along the southeastern coast.
All were settled agricultural peoples, as skilled with the hoe as they were with canoes or with bows and arrows. They lived in villages, where they cultivated corn, beans, and other crops. Noted warriors, they fiercely resisted early attempts to bring them under submission, but coexisted peacefully with the Spaniards for most of the first 198 years of Spanish occupation.
The populations of these Native Americans were drastically reduced by diseases introduced by the European explorers. They had no resistance to pathogens such as measles, smallpox, and typhoid fever that Europeans normally survived. The Native Americans also lost ground because of slaving raids by English forces from South Carolina and Georgia. By mid-18th century these nations no longer existed. The modern Native Americans of Florida are the Seminole, originally Creek from the Georgia-Alabama border, who entered Florida in the period 1716 to 1767. Today they have five reservations in the state. They farm, hunt, and fish, run tourist-related businesses, and operate a large bingo hall near Miami.
|B||The 16th Century|
|B1||Spanish Discovery and Exploration|
The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed on the Atlantic Coast of what is now Florida, probably at or near Melbourne Beach, early in April 1513. He is generally credited with being the first European to set foot in Florida, although he may have been preceded by slavers from the Spanish-held island of La Isla Española (Hispaniola) in the Caribbean Sea. In 1521 Ponce de León returned with two shiploads of colonists to found a settlement on the Gulf Coast, probably in the vicinity of Charlotte Harbor, but he was driven off, mortally wounded, by a Native American attack. A dubious legend of later years attributed his explorations in Florida to a quest for a magic fountain of youth.
Later explorations gave Spain a claim to the vast, uncharted area north and west of the peninsula. For many years the name La Florida, given by Ponce de León to the peninsula, was applied by Spain to the entire Atlantic coastline of North America as far north as Newfoundland.
In 1528 an expedition of 300 men led by Pánfilo de Narváez landed on the Gulf coast, probably at Tampa Bay. The party marched northward through forests and swamps to the area north of Apalachee Bay. Having found no gold there, and beset by continual Native American attacks, they set out for Mexico in crude wooden barges. Most of the members of the expedition were drowned when a sudden storm swamped the barges near Texas. In 1539 the quest for gold brought explorer Hernando de Soto and a force of more than 600 Spanish soldiers to the Tampa Bay area. After exploring the land to the north and northwest, they ventured westward, and, in 1541, discovered the Mississippi River.
|B2||French and Spanish Rivalry|
In 1562 Spanish claims to Florida were challenged by Jean Ribault, a French naval captain, who discovered the mouth of the Saint Johns River and thought it a likely site for a French settlement. Two years later René Goulaine de Laudonnière, one of Ribault’s officers, established Fort Caroline there. Spain, a Roman Catholic country, objected to the French settlement for religious as well as political reasons because the French colonists were Huguenots, or Protestants.
In 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the newly appointed Spanish governor of La Florida, commanded a colonizing expedition that landed 64 km (40 mi) south of Fort Caroline and established San Agustín (now Saint Augustine), the first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States. Menéndez led a successful overland attack on Fort Caroline, while a French fleet, which was attempting to attack Saint Augustine, was destroyed by a violent storm. The Spaniards massacred most of the French at Fort Caroline and executed all but a few survivors of the shipwrecked fleet. Three years later, in revenge for the Fort Caroline massacre, a French expedition destroyed the Spanish garrison there. However, no further French settlements were made on the peninsula.
After the founding of Saint Augustine, Menéndez established a number of coastal outposts and a second major settlement, Santa Elena, at Parris Island in present-day South Carolina. Santa Elena was abandoned in 1586.
|C||The 17th and 18th Centuries|
|C1||Settlement and Conflict|
Early in the 17th century, Franciscan priests converted most of the Timucua and Apalachee of northern Florida to Christianity. An interior chain of missions eventually extended from Saint Augustine to present-day Tallahassee, and another chain ran north along the coastal islands of Georgia.
England and France contested Spain’s claim to the vast area that the Spaniards called La Florida. For 150 years following the establishment of the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, English colonists pushed slowly southward into Spanish territory, establishing settlements in the Carolinas and in Georgia. The English saw the Spanish missions as a threat to their claims. Throughout the early part of the 18th century, English raiders, accompanied by their Native American allies of the Creek and Yamasee nations, attacked Spanish settlements in northern Florida. All of the Spanish missions were destroyed, and most of the Timucua and Apalachee were killed, captured as slaves, or driven into exile.
Meanwhile, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, and other French explorers of the interior of the continent reached the mouth of the Mississippi River in 1682. To counter their activities, the Spaniards in 1698 founded Pensacola in the panhandle. Over the next 20 years, the French founded settlements at Biloxi (now in Mississippi), Mobile (now in Alabama), and New Orleans (now in Louisiana). The French captured Pensacola in 1719, but returned it to Spanish rule in 1722. By 1750 France controlled the Gulf Coast area west of Pensacola, and Great Britain (a union of England, Scotland, and Wales) controlled the Atlantic Coast north of the Saint Marys River.
Toward the end of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) between France and Great Britain, Spain allied itself with France against Great Britain. But the British won the war and by the terms of the Treaty of Paris received Florida from Spain. The acquired land stretched as far west as the Mississippi River. The Spaniards retained New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi.
|C2||British Colonial Period|
Under British administration, the territory was divided into two colonies, East Florida and West Florida. East Florida, with its capital at Saint Augustine, occupied most of the present-day state. West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola, extended westward from the Apalachicola River to the Mississippi and included parts of present-day Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
During the 21 years of British rule, many colonists from England and other parts of Europe settled in Florida. Indigo plants, which yield a blue dye, were grown on plantations to supply the British textile industries, and furs, citrus fruit, lumber, and naval stores were also produced for export.
When the 13 colonies of Great Britain on the Atlantic Seaboard declared their independence as the United States, during the American Revolution (1775-1783), they invited East and West Florida to join them. The Florida colonists, however, remained loyal to Great Britain. During the revolution many Loyalists—colonists who remained loyal to the British king—fled to East Florida from Georgia and South Carolina. Raids and counterraids were common along the East Florida-Georgia border, but there were no major military actions between the patriots and British forces.
|C3||Second Spanish Period|
In 1779 Spain joined the Revolutionary War on the side of the United States. Spanish forces from New Orleans attacked West Florida, capturing Mobile in 1780 and Pensacola in 1781. After the Revolution, in a second Treaty of Paris in 1783, the British formally returned both East Florida and West Florida to Spain. As a result, thousands of settlers left Florida for Britain’s island possessions in the West Indies.
The Spanish governor arrived in 1784. During this second period of Spanish colonial rule, until 1821, Florida received little attention from Spain. British traders were allowed to continue their profitable businesses in Florida, and immigrants from the United States began to settle there. These new settlers strongly supported annexation by the United States, and their views were encouraged by the U.S. government.
The United States and Spain disagreed about the location of the northern boundary of West Florida. The United States maintained, on the basis of language in the peace treaty of 1783, that it was latitude 31° north. Spain claimed the boundary to be latitude 32°30’ north, the boundary established during British rule, and refused to remove its army garrison from Natchez. Finally, in 1795, under the terms of the Treaty of San Lorenzo, Spain accepted latitude 31° north as the northern boundary of West Florida.
|D||The 19th Century|
|D1||United States Intervention|
In the second decade of the 19th century, Florida’s diverse population included Spaniards, United States settlers, English traders, adventurers, runaway slaves, and the Seminole. Spain maintained a few garrisons in the principal ports, but for the most part left the countryside alone and the Seminole to themselves. An offshoot of the Creek nation of the Georgia-Alabama frontier, the Seminole included remnants of other native peoples and a number of escaped black slaves from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. They occupied lands in northern Florida that were coveted by residents of Georgia, although Florida belonged to Spain. Georgia residents were also unhappy over the Seminole practice of giving refuge to fugitive slaves.
In 1810 United States settlers in the western part of Florida rebelled against Spanish rule and declared their independence as the republic of West Florida. This area and other territory between the Mississippi and Perdido rivers was subsequently annexed by the United States. The eastern part, between the Perdido and Pearl rivers, was incorporated into Mississippi territory, while the area west of the Pearl was included in the Territory of Orleans (now the state of Louisiana).
During the War of 1812 the Spaniards allowed the British to occupy Pensacola and set up a naval base there. In 1814 American forces led by General Andrew Jackson attacked Pensacola and drove the British out. After the war the United States intervened in Florida on several occasions on behalf of American interests. The First Seminole War (1817-1818) began when U.S. troops, commanded by Jackson, invaded Florida to retaliate for border raids by the Seminole. Jackson seized a military post at Saint Marks and took as prisoners two British traders, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Chrystie Ambrister. He had them court-martialed for inciting the Seminole and then, having been found guilty, executed. Learning that the Seminole had fled toward Pensacola, he made a forced march and captured the post a second time.
Jackson’s actions created an international incident. Both Spain and Britain were incensed. Most of President James Monroe’s Cabinet was ready to repudiate Jackson, but Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who had been negotiating with Spain for the sale of Florida, insisted that Jackson had not exceeded his orders. He persuaded Monroe to accept his view, and then instructed Spain that it should either govern Florida more effectively or cede it to the United States.
After long negotiations, Spain agreed in 1819 to cede Florida to the United States. A probable factor in the decision was that Spain was troubled at that time by revolts in its South American colonies and could ill afford to go to war with the United States. Under the terms of the treaty, called the Adams-Onís Treaty, the United States agreed to assume payment of claims, up to $5 million, which American citizens in Florida had lodged against Spain. The United States took formal possession of Florida in 1821.
For several months, Jackson served as military governor of Florida. Then Florida was organized as a territory with its present boundaries, and William P. DuVal was appointed its first territorial governor in 1822. Tallahassee was chosen as the site of the territorial capital in 1824. Settlers poured into the territory from neighboring states, and a typical Southern plantation system, based on cotton, corn, and tobacco, was established in northern Florida.
As the territory’s population increased, settlers pushed southward, displacing the Seminole. A treaty was forced on the Seminole in 1832 by which they were to move west of the Mississippi River within three years. However, many of them, led by Osceola, one of their war leaders, repudiated the treaty. Efforts to enforce it led to the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), which took the lives of 1,466 American soldiers and even more Seminole. When the fighting ended, most of the Seminole were removed from the state, but some took refuge in the Everglades, where many of their descendants now live. After the Third Seminole War (1855-1858), about half of those remaining were moved west. The rest stayed in Florida.
A state constitution was drafted in 1838, and Florida was admitted to the Union on March 3, 1845. William D. Moseley, a planter from Jefferson County, was elected first governor of the state of Florida.
Between 1845 and 1860 the number of inhabitants in the state increased from about 70,000 to more than 140,000. Most of the people lived in the northern part of the state, and vast areas of southern Florida remained uninhabited. Cotton, which was the chief cash crop, was produced by slave labor on plantations in middle Florida, between the Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers. Cattle were raised along the Peace and Saint Johns rivers. Some lumber, turpentine, leather, coarse cotton cloth, and salt were produced in the state. By 1861 the chief cities in northern Florida were linked by railroads.
Slavery was one of the most divisive political issues in the Congress of the United States in the early 19th century. Many Congress members from the Northern states pressed to end slavery, both because it was considered immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Members from Florida and the other Deep South states believed that slavery was essential to their cotton-based agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the national economy.
By the 1850s, Southerners saw their power slipping in Congress, the clamor by Northern abolitionists—those who wanted an immediate and total end to slavery—was at a high pitch, and many white Floridians came to believe that secession from the Union was the only way to protect “Southern rights,” including the right to own slaves.
After South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, Florida’s proslavery Democratic Party demanded the state’s immediate secession from the Union, and in January 1861 Florida officially seceded. The next month, after seven states had seceded, they organized as the Confederate States of America and began mobilizing for war. The American Civil War began officially on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery bombarded a federal fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
During the Civil War, Union troops captured Jacksonville, Saint Augustine, Fernandina, Pensacola, and other coastal towns. Repeated Union attempts to gain control of the interior of the state failed, and Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi to escape Union occupation during the war. Inland routes were used to transport large quantities of beef, bacon, and salt supplied by Florida to the Confederate armies farther north. Confederate ships, operating out of sheltered inlets along the Florida coast, carried cotton, tobacco, and turpentine to the West Indies, where these commodities were traded for arms, ammunition, and medical supplies. Only one major battle was fought on Florida soil, on February 20, 1864, when Confederate troops defeated Union forces at Olustee.
After the Confederate surrender in 1865, President Andrew Johnson, as part of his plan of restoration, or Reconstruction, of the Union, appointed Provisional Governor William Marvin to reorganize the state government. A new state constitution was drawn up, formally abolishing slavery. The new government, however, was dominated by former Confederates. It enacted the so-called Black Code, similar to codes passed in other ex-Confederate states, which significantly denied blacks freedom of movement and of occupation.
Partly because of these acts by the Southern legislatures, the Radical wing of the Republican Party in Congress wrested control of Reconstruction from President Johnson and imposed the harsher regime called Radical Reconstruction. In March 1867 Congress put all the ex-Confederate states except Tennessee under military rule. Their readmission to the Union was made conditional on their adoption of new constitutions acceptable to Congress. When Florida ratified such a constitution in 1868 and accepted the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, guaranteeing civil rights for blacks, it was readmitted to the Union. Moderate Republicans, many of them from the North (called carpetbaggers by their enemies), drafted the constitution and held most of the offices until 1877. Assisting them were white Southerners who were willing to cooperate (called scalawags). During this period a number of blacks held political office, and blacks generally made modest gains as citizens.
However, many whites refused to accept the situation. Blacks were intimidated by terrorist organizations that engaged in such tactics as burning of homes and flogging or lynching of blacks they labeled as “dangerous.” Partly as a result of such terrorism, the Democrats were returned to power in the 1876 elections. Because the Southern Democrats were committed to white supremacy, blacks were relegated to an inferior position, in which they were forced to remain for nearly a century.
To keep blacks in an inferior position, whites restricted their voting rights using various methods. In the late 1880s Florida adopted a poll tax—a tax on voting—that eliminated the poorest voters, most of whom were black. Fraud and intimidation against black voters were constant factors in keeping the Democrats in power.
In the last part of the 19th century, Florida, like other Southern states, established racial segregation through laws providing separate public facilities for whites and blacks. Segregation became a basic rule in Southern society, helping to ensure that blacks would not present a serious challenge to the social order.
|D6||Agricultural Distress and Populism|
Farmers’ incomes declined sharply after the Civil War, while their living and operating costs rose. Growers of cotton, then Florida’s chief cash crop, were especially hard hit because the price of cotton fell and stayed low until the turn of the 20th century. In the 1870s and 1880s American farmers formed cooperative groups called farmers’ alliances, which were part of a movement of agrarian unrest and protest called populism. Among the causes of unrest were the interest rates charged by banks and the discriminatory freight rates charged by railroads. The alliances soon realized that their grievances had to be addressed with political action. At its 1890 national convention in Ocala, Florida, the National Farmers Alliance adopted its Ocala Platform calling for a “subtreasury” system to replace national banks and make low-interest loans to farmers; an increase in the money supply; free and unlimited coinage of silver; government control of transportation; and an income tax. This platform led to creation of a third party, the People’s Party, to challenge the Democrats and Republicans.
In Florida, however, third-party sentiment was stalled by a powerful Florida Alliance faction that preferred to work within the Democratic Party. The Florida Democrats did endorse the Ocala Platform in 1891, but it was not implemented. Dissatisfied Alliance members put the People’s Party on the ballot in 1892, but because most black farmers—who were a substantial part of Alliance supporters—could not vote, it was defeated and withered away. The Democrats ruled without serious challenge for many years afterward.
|D7||Growth of Commerce|
Although agriculture was depressed, Florida’s economy began its first major period of rapid growth in the 1880s. Hamilton Disston, a Northern industrialist, bought 1,600,000 hectares (4 million acres) of Florida land in 1881 and became one of the state’s first real estate developers. Two Northern financiers, Henry M. Flagler and Henry B. Plant, encouraged the development of Florida as a resort area by building railroads, hotels, and tourist facilities. Exploitation was begun of the state’s phosphate deposits, which were discovered in 1884, and new lands were opened for agriculture in southern Florida. During the 1890s a series of comparatively severe winters damaged the citrus fruit crops of northern Florida. Citrus fruit growers moved southward on the peninsula in order to lessen the risk of frost. Florida’s resort business expanded during World War I (1914-1918), when foreign travel was restricted.
|E||The 20th Century|
|E1||The Real Estate Boom|
After World War I the state’s economy continued to develop rapidly. More than 1 million tourists a year visited Florida in the early 1920s, and land speculators rushed to the state, hoping to make their fortunes in real estate. Between 1920 and 1925 the population increased four times faster than that of any other state. Real estate prices soared, especially in the Miami area. Swamps and mudflats were drained, forests were cleared, and roads and railroads were extended to the newly developed areas. The real estate boom reached its peak in 1925 and then collapsed in the spring of 1926. Land values dropped, banks failed, and many personal fortunes were lost. In addition, Florida was struck by disastrous hurricanes in 1926 and again in 1928. Nevertheless, the tourist industry continued to develop and the economy had made a partial recovery by 1929.
|E2||The Depression Years|
Income from tourism and other economic activities in Florida dropped sharply during the worldwide Great Depression, the hard times of the 1930s. After a few years, however, Florida’s economy began to improve, partly as a result of federal and state aid programs. During the depression, cooperative farm groups and farm markets were organized. Wood pulp and paper mills were also established.
|E3||World War II and After|
During World War II (1939-1945), more than 2 million servicemen and women trained in Florida military bases, while German submarines sank 24 merchant ships in the state’s coastal waters. During and after the war, manufacturing expanded rapidly in Florida, providing more economic diversity and comparative stability. In 1949 the U.S. Air Force Missile Test Center was established at Cape Canaveral and soon became a center for space exploration. The first U.S. earth satellite, Explorer I, was launched from the base in 1958, and the first manned U.S. space capsule, Freedom 7, was launched there in 1961. In 1969 the John F. Kennedy Space Center, also at Cape Canaveral, was the launch site for Apollo 11, the first spaceflight to land humans on the moon.
After World War II, another boom developed in the real estate and construction industries. Spurring the growth were new developments in air conditioning and mosquito control. Beaches, tourist attractions, hotels, motels, restaurants, and improved roads brought in millions of visitors, and many settled permanently in Florida. Between 1930 and 1980 no other state matched Florida’s 564 percent rate of growth. The eighth most populous state in the nation in 1980, Florida rose to fourth largest in the next decade, when 900 new residents moved into the state each day. The spiraling population increase, particularly in the southern counties, placed great strain on urban infrastructures such as power, water, and sewer lines. By 1988 Florida required each day 1.6 km (1 mi) of new highway, two new K-12 classrooms and teachers, two more police officers, three more state prison beds, and 47 gallons (178 liters) more water.
Immigration to Florida continues to be strong, although not at the same high levels experienced in the 1980s. Much of the immigration has given the state a Latin cast, especially in Miami and Miami-Dade County. Since Fidel Castro’s seizure of Cuba in 1959, more than 800,000 Cubans have come to Florida. In recent years they have been joined by immigrants from El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries. One striking result is that Miami has become a major center for Latin American banking, trade, and culture. In Miami-Dade County, 53.3 percent of the residents speak a language other than English at home.
Major political changes occurred in Florida after 1950. Many northern immigrants, unlike the older natives, were not Democrats by tradition. A small Republican Party had existed in Florida since the 1920s. As the national Democratic Party embraced issues such as civil rights that were unpopular in Florida, Floridians increasingly turned to the Republican Party.
When the state legislature was reapportioned in 1968 to give equal representation to the new population of southern Florida, it was widely expected that it would become more progressive and spend more for social programs. Instead, the state remained conservative. Many of the new residents were retired people or small businessmen and women who, it turned out, opposed the higher taxes required for progressive government programs.
Although both state parties are conservative, the Republicans have often had the advantage because of the national Democratic Party’s liberal image. After 1952 the state regularly voted for the Republican candidates in presidential elections except for the 1964 and 1976 elections. Both Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates have been elected since the 1960s, but in 1994 Florida’s state senate acquired a Republican majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles kept his seat in that election by the narrow margin of 51 percent of the vote versus his Republican opponent’s 49 percent. In 1998, however, Republican Jeb Bush was elected governor. He was reelected in 2002.
When the Supreme Court of the United States ordered desegregation of schools in its Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, many Floridians approved of Governor Leroy Collins’s policy of peaceful—if reluctant—acceptance. However, racial tension continued in certain areas, aggravated by the massive influx of refugees from Communist Cuba and the economic troubles of the late 1970s. Angered by their continuing poverty and what they perceived as unfair treatment by the police, blacks rioted in 1980 in the Liberty City section of Miami; the rioting resulted in 18 deaths, both white and black, and more than $100 million in property damage.
In the 1980s and 1990s Floridians had to contend with environmental damage. Florida has 58 hazardous waste sites on the national priority list of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Water quality has suffered greatly from unrestricted population growth. Overdevelopment and urban sprawl have consumed or polluted water resources throughout the state, and currently they threaten the purity of the aquifer that supplies drinking water for 5 million people in south Florida.
A vocal lay environmental movement has achieved notable successes, including the passage of legislation to control encroachment on the fragile ecosystems that keep the peninsula—one of the world’s few green landmasses at this latitude—from becoming a desert. Large federal and state programs are attempting to reverse damage to the Everglades, the vast sheet of fresh water that has nourished the entire southern tip but is now poisoned by chemical runoff.
|F||Entering the 21st Century|
In 2004 Florida experienced one of the most devastating hurricane seasons in its history. Four hurricanes—Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne—hit the state in August and September, the first time a state experienced four hurricanes in a single season since Texas in 1886, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Frances caused the largest mass evacuation in the state’s history. The four storms were responsible for at least 20 deaths in the state, at least $15 billion in insured property damages, and the temporary loss of electrical power for millions of residences.
In 2000 Florida became the focus of national attention during the disputed presidential election between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush (brother of Governor Jeb Bush). Because both candidates needed Florida’s 25 electoral college votes to win, voting procedures in Florida came under great scrutiny, both during the dispute and after the election was awarded to George W. Bush. Reports emerged of voting irregularities, including confusing ballots and thousands of so-called undervotes (ballots that did not register a vote for a presidential candidate when they were run through the counting machines).
Throughout the state, some blacks claimed they were denied the right to vote because of incorrectly processed voter registration applications or older voting machines that did not function properly. Various civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the state charging that blacks were discouraged from voting. In 2001 the U.S. Civil Rights Commission issued its findings on the election, concluding that there was a “widespread denial of voting rights.”
In response to the election problems, the Florida legislature passed a bill in 2001 known as the Florida Election Reform Act. The bill prohibited punch-card ballot machines, provided for a uniform statewide ballot design, and set standards for reviewing ballots during a manual recount.