September 25, 2005

Florida voters signing petitions to ban gerrymandering

From today's Tallahassee Democrat:

The Florida Legislature currently draws the boundaries for state House and Senate districts, as well as those for the U.S. Congress, every 10 years to reflect shifts in population. Each chamber has its own little bureaucracy of statisticians, demographers, legal experts and lawyers....

So much gerrymandering exists that not a single incumbent was defeated for any congressional, state Senate or House seat in 2004. More than 72 percent of 142 state legislative races had only one major party candidate. That made Florida the least competitive state aside from Arkansas.

Drawing their own districts is a blatant conflict of interest for lawmakers, and it's unnatural in a state where voter registration is almost evenly split by party. It's not right no matter which party is in charge and does the gerrymandering.

The amendments championed by Common Cause and the Committee for Fair Elections would create a nonpartisan redistricting commission of 15 members: six appointed by Republicans, six by Democrats and three independents appointed by Florida's chief justice. They also would establish standards and redraw the districts in 2008, four years ahead of schedule.

Needed now are 611,009 signatures for each amendment by Feb. 1. As of Wednesday, 363,864 had been collected. To print out the petitions and sign them, go to Committee for Fair Elections.

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