Redistricting maps challenged by state democrats

admin | 2/23/2012, 4 a.m.

Will attorney generals ruling impact fall elections?

The line has been drawn between Republicans and Democrats in the State of Florida as lawyers for both sides argue about the method by which they believe redistricting maps should be drawn and approved. The redistricting process occurs every 10 years following the U.S. Census. But now with several fall elections on the local level approaching, and with the nation also voting on whether to retain President Barack Obama or to replace him, the makeup of districts becomes that more crucial. We know that the attorney general still has to look at the maps and approve them but when the voters approved several constitutional amendments in the 2010 elections, what they said they wanted were rules that required a more extensive review by the Florida Supreme Court and the legislative as the maps were drawn, said Cedric McMinn, 34, executive director of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. The Florida Democratic Party has filed a legal brief challenging both the state senate and house maps. Why? Because they violate the fair district amendments [Amendments 5 and 6]. Whats a gerrymandered district anyway? McMinn is not the only one to question if the maps that have been proposed will create unfair advantages for the opposition. The Florida Democratic Party has been joined by a coalition of voters that includes the League of Women Voters, the National Council of La Raza and Common Cause of Florida. Republicans, on the other hand, are led by Attorney General Pam Bondi, who wants the court to yield to the Legislature, to avoid making inquiries into the facts behind the maps and to simply sign-off on the proposals [for the maps] as constitutional. McMinn says it bodes negatively for Democrats here in Miami and across the state. Much more will be said about this as the case heats up, but if Republicans have their way, we will see gerrymandering win out once more, he said. They cannot try to select their voters by packing citizens in certain districts so that the incumbents are easily reelected. The maps they have proposed appear to do just that. I look at the Districts as a resident of Miami Gardens and look at the map, said Oliver Gilbert, 39, president of the Miami-Dade Caucus of Black Local Elected Officials, treasurer of the Miami-Dade League of Cities and commissioner for the City of Miami Gardens. It is broken up into several different districts some say that is a good thing. But that means there is no one elected representative that would be be responsible for Miami Gardens. The way its diluted wont work well for us and does not keep the community together. It would be significantly better if all of the citizens of Miami Gardens were in one state-house district. Gerrymandering is often used to achieve desired electoral results for a particular political party and can be used to help or hinder a specific demographic: racial, linguistic, religious, class or political. In some cases, such as when a U.S. federal voting district boundary is drawn to produce a majority of constituents representative of Black or other racial minorities, such districts are known as minority-majority districts. District 17, currently represented by former State Senator and now Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, is such a District. She is being challenged by Dr. Rudolph Moise, who ran unsuccessfully against her in 2010 in a crowded field of nine candidates. The challenge that faces these candidates will be that they are still unsure who they will represent. Its really hard to get ready for a campaign when you arent even sure how far your district runs and therefore who makes up your constituency, said State Senator Oscar Brannon II, in an earlier interview. As the District stands in its newest form, about 50,000 more people are now included in District 24, Moise said. Theres more balance in the District Blacks, Haitians, Hispanics and whites all live in this District which calls for someone who has worked well with each of these groups. But for now, while its pretty certain that the District will remain mostly Democratic, the map that will show how far south and east it will must still be approved. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was unavailable for comment. By D. Kevin McNeir kmcneir@miamitimesonline.com