Editorial: Hope amid redistricting failure

Editorial Board | Tampa Bay Times | 11/06/2015

You could see this coming. The Florida Legislature's three-week special session ended this week with no agreement on new state Senate districts, another waste of time and money. Now the courts will draw the new districts just as they drew the congressional districts, but that will not end the whining from the legislative branch.

Lawmakers blamed everyone but themselves for their failures: the drafters of the Fair Districts amendments that voters approved in 2010, which require that districts be drawn without any intent to favor political parties or incumbents; the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuits accusing lawmakers of violating the amendments; the courts.

The legislators' inability to set aside their self-interest to follow the Florida Constitution and draw legal congressional and legislative districts is the best argument for taking the job away from them. At least 13 states have some form of an independent redistricting commission that redraws boundary lines every 10 years to reflect population changes. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of those commissions in June, so the path forward is clear.

After the latest debacle, even some powerful lawmakers such as future House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, say they are open to an independent commission. The Legislature should take up this issue in January while memories — and scars — are still fresh. If lawmakers fail to act, voters should be prepared to pursue another constitutional amendment to create a redistricting commission. The Fair Districts amendments were a positive step, but it is time to take the next step.

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