FairDistricts leaders ask for changes in redistricting meetings

posted by khaughney | Orlando Sentinel | 06/14/2011

Fair Districts, a grassroots group that successfully pushed for new constitutional provisions last year that dictate redistricting, is asking the Legislature to revamp the procedures it has set out for 26 redistricting hearings that are set to be held around the state this summer.

The group’s biggest concern is that the lawmakers will be holding public meetings about the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts, but there will not be proposed maps for the public to comment on during that time frame. The proposed maps will likely not be made public until some point during the spring legislative session.

The summer meetings will be useless, the group said.

“The exercise in our opinion is a total waste of time,” said Jorge Mursuli of Democracia.

Fair Districts, Common Cause, Democracia and the Florida League of Women Voters sent a letter to Senate President Mike Haridopolos, House Speaker Dean Cannon and redistricting chairs Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, outlining their concerns with the process.

In addition to asking that lawmakers produce maps for the hearings, the group requested that the Florida House stop fighting the implementation of the Fair Districts provisions in court. The new amendments, which just received federal approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, are designed to ban gerrymandering.

Lawmakers have said that the new constitutional standards will make the process even more difficult and have previously challenged backers of the new amendments to try to draw the map themselves.

Deirdre Macnab, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, said that lawmakers get a paycheck to do this and asking the public to draw the map would be an “abrogation of their own responsibility.”

“We expect them to do their job and I don’t see any reason why we should ask our members to draw these maps,” she said.

“”We expect them to do their job and I don’t see any reason why we should ask our members to draw these maps.”

The schedule of public hearings is here.

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