Every 10 years, following the completion of the national census, state legislatures are required to reconfigure the boundaries of voting districts to conform to the increasing or decreasing number of residents in the state. The Florida Legislature will take full advantage of the required change to make sure that those in control of the legislature retain their control.
This is a game played by whichever party is in control of the legislature at the time of redistricting. A time-honored practice for many years, the unofficial name for the manipulation of boundaries is called “gerrymandering.” The word gerrymander was coined in 1812 by a newspaper editor commenting on the redrawing of a Massachusetts electoral boundary under Gov. Elbridge Gerry. The district resembled a sprawling salamander-shaped constituency.
Nationally, Rep. John Tanner (D-TN) and Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) have introduced a bill in Washington, DC, the “Redistricting Transparency Act,” which would require each state to set up a website whereby citizens could monitor and comment on proposed redistricting before the state’s plans are finalized. I can’t see such a bill ever making it out of committee in Washington. Too many members of our Congress benefit from Gerrymandering.
Florida voters will be asked to vote on Constitutional Amendments 5 and 6 that will be on the ballot in November. They require our absolute support as they would radically change, to our benefit, how districts in Florida would be redesigned after future national censuses. Amendment 5 (state elections) and 6 (national elections) are the creation of the non-partisan group, Fair Districts Florida, < www.fairdistrictsflorida.org >. The computer has replaced the map and pencil in recreating district boundaries. It is highly skilled in a block-by-block, house-byhouse, registered-voter-by-registered-voter manipulation to bring together those who vote in a pattern that will guarantee the reelection of the party in power.
The benefits of gerrymandering are obvious. We have more registered Democrat than Republican voters in Florida. Yet, gerrymandering has all but guaranteed the Republicans will retain control over the legislature. The mission of Fair Districts Florida is to bring fairness to redistricting and give voters a real voice in choosing their representatives. Amendments 5 and 6 would: (1) Forbid the legislature to draw district lines to favor a political party or protect incumbents; (2) require districts be compact and respect community boundaries, and (3) require districts be as equal in population as possible and not disenfranchise minorities. The concept, voters selecting elected officials rather than elected officials selecting supporting voters, is so obvious that to deny passage of Amendments 5 and 6 would be against the whole concept of equal representation.
Constitutional Amendment 7, placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature, should not be confused as part and parcel of 5 and 6. Amendment 7 was drafted by elected officials to distract voters from supporting 5 and 6. Legislators say Amendment 7 will help preserve minority-access districts, but it is nothing more than an effort to confuse voters.
It is written in a way that will override the intended benefits of Amendments 5 and 6, if all three measures pass. Amendment 7 allows those drawing the political boundaries to take into account communities of interest. Florida’s Constitutional Amendments 5 and 6 stand a very good chance of making it into law as we the voters of the state, not our elected officials, have the final say. Remember to say “no” to Amendment 7. We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement.
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