- Groups Express Deep Concerns about Redistricting Timeline, Gag Order to Legislators and Use of Taxpayer Money to Oppose the FairDistricts Amendments -
Today, leaders of the Florida League of Women Voters, Florida NAACP, Common Cause Florida and Democracia sent the attached letter to legislative leaders expressing deep concerns about the facts that (1) Legislators are about to embark on 26 public hearings without presenting maps to the public for review; (2) a gag order issued by Sen. Don Gaetz has directed committee members not to speak at the public hearings; (3) the timeline for redistricting is calculated to protect incumbents by delaying finalization of Congressional and Legislative districts until almost time for the election; and (4) the Legislature’s continued use of taxpayer money to oppose the FairDistricts Amendments which were passed by 63% of voters last November.
On June 20th legislators will begin 26 public hearings around the state. But they will not make any proposed maps available to the public for comment. Furthermore, House and Senate members have been notified that they cannot speak at the hearings – not even to ask questions. The email notification is attached. Jorge Mursuli, President of Democracia, Inc., said: “The fact that no maps are being provided makes the hearings a total waste of time and taxpayer money. Asking for the public to comment in a vacuum cannot be helpful. Show us the maps! Then we can have a meaningful public dialogue.” President of the Florida League of Women Voters, Deidre Macnab said, “Some might call the planned hearings a ‘charade’ at taxpayer expense.”
According to the present plan, the legislature will not reveal district maps until some time during the 2012 Session and will pass them before the end of Session in mid-March. Adding time for court reviews and department of Justice approval, even if the districts are approved on first review, it is very unlikely that maps will be finalized by the close of qualifying, June 8, 2012. Macnab said that the present timeline will lead to “chaos and confusion” for candidates and voters and called on the legislature to accelerate the timeline. The groups suggested that maps could be drawn now, debated and discussed at committee meetings in the Fall and passed during the first week of session adding two full months for legal reviews.
The group leaders also called on the Legislature to stop their “relentless” expenditure of taxpayer money to frustrate the will of Florida voters by opposing the FairDistricts Amendments in Court. Leon Russell, Legislative Chair of the Florida NAACP and Vice Chair of the NAACP National Board said, “It is time for Speaker Cannon to stop spending public funds, move the redistricting process forward, and get down to the business of carrying out the will of the people.”