Stop wasting money fighting redistricting

Opinion | Florida Today | 08/06/2011

State lawmakers have been hearing the same message at hearings across the state on reapportionment.

Stand and deliver on implementing the Fair Districts amendments that require the Legislature to draw congressional and legislative districts that are geographically logical and compact, respect municipal boundaries and preserve traditional minority neighborhoods.

That means no more gerrymandering of maps to favor incumbents or any political party in the redistricting process that follows the once-a-decade Census. State voters overwhelmingly approved Fair Districts with 63 percent of the vote, showing the broad bipartisan support for the measures, from progressives to tea-party activists.

Lawmakers also should act in good faith to convince a skeptical public they're not intent on subverting the fair district standards, by quickly putting proposed new maps on display.

"It is critical that voters have adequate time to substantively comment on proposed district maps," Florida League of Women Voters president Deirdre MacNab has stated, and we strongly agree.

That means making them public no later than September, before committees charged with crafting the new boundaries will start taking votes.

They should also conduct a second round of public meetings this fall to explain mapping decisions before the Legislature convenes in January, to give Florida voters an opportunity to voice opposition and press for revisions before a final vote is taken.

Though the deadline to pass new maps is March 9, they should speed the timeline so the U.S. Justice Department, which has 60 days to review the new districts, can, if necessary, send them back for improvement.

But there's more. House lawmakers are also pursuing an ill-conceived and wasteful lawsuit to invalidate the congressional Fair Districts' law. The case is forcing the state to pay to both save and kill the popular amendment, as Secretary of State Kurt Browning is required to defend it against the lawsuit.

It's hard to conjure a more ludicrous use of scarce taxpayer dollars. Drop the suit now.

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