TALLAHASSEE, FL — After census delays, Florida lawmakers kick off the complex, once-a-decade process of redrawing state legislative and congressional districts this week.
Today, the Senate Reapportionment Committee receives presentations on census data in preparation for the redistricting process, which could change the voting patterns of a particular district, or give one party an advantage over another.
Doing so intentionally is against Florida’s Fair Districts law.
Ellen Freidin, president of Fair Districts Now, part of a coalition responsible for the voter-approved fair districts amendments, said she is concerned lawmakers are not doing enough to be transparent.
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“You know, with today’s technology, there is no reason in the world that they can’t live-stream the screens of the computers that they’re using to draw the maps,” Freidin contended. “So why not let the public see how these maps are drawn?”
Under a GOP-dominated Legislature, Florida’s redistricting process is expected to be among the most closely watched in the country, partly because the U.S. House of Representatives is tightly divided, with Democrats holding a narrow, eight-person majority.
Freidin argued instead of Florida lawmakers making the process more open, they placed a legislative rule which bars the public from seeing any draft maps.
“That is such an insult to the public, and so contrary to Florida’s reputation as the Sunshine State,” Freidin asserted. “They are not letting a bit of sunshine into this process.”
Two constitutional amendments passed by voters in 2010, by margins of 63%, require the voting-district maps to be drawn without favoring incumbents or political parties. The districts must be compact and, as much as possible, must follow city, county and geographic boundaries.
The process carves the state into 28 congressional districts, 40 state Senate districts and 120 state House districts.