Legislature needs to let redistricting amendments stand

The 2010 Florida elections are shaping up to be one of the most controversial in recent history. Along with the fiery Senate seat race between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio in the Republican primary, voters will battle with the state Legislature over redistricting.

In 2012, lawmakers will have to redraw the state’s district lines for representation purposes. Done once every 10 years, the purpose is for fair apportionment of seats in Congress and the state Legislature.

In November, the ballot may have as many as three amendments intended to change redistricting. Two amendments, proposed by a citizen petition, are already on the ballot. But lawmakers are working on a third, which they say will clear up any confusion caused by the first two.

However, the Legislature should not be proposing amendments that would directly compete with what many Florida voters petitioned for.

Nonpartisan group Fair Districts Florida proposed the two amendments. The group wants to reform district lines by establishing constitutionally mandated fairness standards. One amendment would change how legislative districts are drawn, while the other would restructure how congressional districts are drawn.

The two amendments say: “No apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice; and districts shall consist of contiguous territory.”

The Legislature began meeting last week to work on its own proposal for redistricting reform. Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, introduced a separate amendment intended to clarify the proposed changes.

“There is a certain confusion about amendments already on the ballot,” Hukill said to Sunshine State News. “This measure will add clarity to the amendment.”

However, some feel the GOP amendment would not do enough to protect minority voters in the redistricting process.

The NAACP, which has backed the current amendments, called the Republican proposal “a sham,” according to a letter sent Wednesday to future Senate President Mike Haridopolos and his House counterpart, Dean Cannon.

The Legislature is wrongly using its power to bypass a citizen petition. Florida voters should be allowed to vote and decide for themselves whether they will follow the petitions of fellow voters.

Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in political science and economics.