This week, USF students from Campaign for Florida will continue to seek signatures from their peers to help tack an amendment onto the ballot in 2006.
The amendment calls for a committee to redraw state legislative and congressional district boundaries in order to eliminate gerrymandering and would appear on the 2006 ballot.
To be considered for the ballot, the petition needs 611,000 signatures by February 2006.
As of Sept. 13, the Campaign for Florida has collected 475,954 signatures for the petition.
Redistricting is a practice authorized by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and ensures state voting districts meet the “one person, one vote” principle.
According to CampaignforFlorida.com, in 2004 not one incumbent was defeated in Florida’s State Legislature or in the U.S. congressional delegation. In the same election year, 72.5 percent of state legislative races had only one major party candidate. This makes Florida one of the least competitive states for elections, second only to Arkansas.
“I believe it is in the interests of Florida’s citizens to take politicians out of the process of selecting their own districts,” said USF student Andrew Ward, campus coordinator for Campaign for Florida.
The proposal calls for a 15-member panel to deal with these issues. The group would consist of six members of the majority party, six members of the minority party and three members appointed by the chief justice of Florida’s Supreme Court.
The proposal also stipulates that they follow existing political boundaries that are “compact, contiguous and follow community boundaries”.
According to Susan MacManus, political science professor and political analyst for Channel 8 News, the goal of the redistricting effort is to try to create an independent commission.
According to the campaign’s program director Eric Nowak, there is a good chance the amendment will make the ballot.
“You have to look at three contributing factors in the lack of competition within districts, not just gerrymandering,” MacManus said.
These factors include bloc-level data on voter affiliations, single-party control of the legislature and emergency term limits.
Organizations on campus involved in the amendment effort are few, though Ward is working with the president of the College Democrats to focus on the issue.
Although Ward believes students are aware of the issue, he said many don’t necessarily understand how much it affects them and their community.