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Has the redistricting process for Florida been fair?

admin | 3/1/2012, 4:30 a.m.

There is no magic process or transparent system that can erase human emotions, prejudices, stereotypes, beliefs and political affiliations. Redistricting is a process that is undertaken every 10 years based on the latest census data. The goal is to draw legislative and congressional districts in a manner that ensures equal and fair representation. This month the Florida legislature passed the Redistricting plan and it was signed into law by Governor Scott. Once the plan was approved and signed into law, there was a barrage of lawsuits were filed. These challenges are fitting because in certain district the maps just do not make sense. In 2010, 63 percent of Florida voters passed the Fair District amendments, which said political districts for state and federal offices must be compact and equal in population when possible. There is also another component of the amendment, and where feasible, the maps must make use of existing city, county, and geographical boundaries. Lakeland has been divided into two maps; Polk County has been split into four maps. These maps were supposed to respect communities and geographic boundaries they do not. We think all the maps are embedded with violations, said Dan Gelber, general counsel for Fair Districts Now. On the other hand, the Republicans believe that they have followed the law and that the process was consistent with the Fair Districts amendment. They have given themselves a grade of A because they believe this years redistricting process was driven by a goal of transparency. Last years statewide listening tour to initiate the process drew over 5,000 attendees and 1,637 speakers gave their input on map making. The process gave the common folks of Florida an opportunity to speak to their representatives and they did the listening instead of talking. After listening, the representatives had the responsibility to draw up fair maps. The new redistricting maps would boost the number of Hispanic lawmakers and keep the same number of Black lawmakers. Based on an analysis of the 27 congressional districts, it has been determined that 14 strongly favor Republicans and 10 strongly favor Democrats. The lawsuits have started and no one can predict what the final outcome. We can only wait for the courts to decide. Roger Caldwell is the CEO of On Point Media Group in Jacksonville. By Roger Caldwell Miami Times contributor jet38@bellsouth.net