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Florida proposal would take redistricting power away from politicians

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Florida proposal would take redistricting power away from politicians

Old 12-06-04, 07:16 PM
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Florida proposal would take redistricting power away from politicians

... hopefully this ends up passing. Even if it's presented as being uber-political.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald...0348240.htm?1c

Proposal redirects drawing district borders

Democrats are proposing a constitutional amendment that would take the power to draw political lines away from politicians.

BY LESLEY CLARK

[email protected]

Still smarting from a drubbing in November, Florida Democrats are dusting off a pitch to take the partisanship out of the explosive once-a-decade task of redrawing political boundaries -- a long-shot proposal they say could help the one-time majority party find its way back to relevance.

The plan, which some Democrats hope to put on the ballot in November 2006, would strip politicians of the power to reconfigure legislative and congressional voting districts. Instead, the responsibility would be given to an independent, bipartisan commission. Rules on drawing districts would be tightened as well, outlawing the meandering type of ''ink spot'' and ''bug splat'' districts that critics say splinter communities and are aimed solely at concentrating like-minded voters to ensure one party's dominance.

The result of taking politicians out of the mix, Democrats suggest, would be districts that more accurately reflect the state's political composition. Though Democrats hold an edge in voter registration statewide, the GOP holds two-thirds of the state's congressional and legislative seats.

Democrats lost three more state House seats in the November election -- a loss some peg to aggressive Republican redistricting efforts in 2002, when the majority party controlled the redrawing of boundary lines.

The next redrawing of political boundaries, or redistricting, will be in 2012, after the 2010 Census.

''There are seats clearly drawn just to increase Republican domination in the Legislature,'' said Lance Block, a trial lawyer who has helped raise money to put similar proposals for nonpartisan commissions on the ballot.

``Granted, they worked within the system, but that's what happens when the job is carried out by the parties. The incentive is to dominate.''

The result has been districts that sprawl across counties, split up neighborhoods and make it increasingly difficult for incumbents to be challenged, Democrats say.

TWO SUPPORTERS

Groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters have long favored nonpartisan map drawing, envisioning a civic-minded group unencumbered by politics and political aspirations.

They argue that politically drawn lines serve only to stifle competition because lawmakers are interested in protecting their jobs and their party.

A similar proposal to take the power from lawmakers narrowly failed to win passage from the state Constitution Revision Commission in 1998, and a largely Democratic effort to revive the measure was dropped in 1999 when organizers didn't collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot.

The party in power is traditionally reluctant to cede such authority -- the Democrats never did in the decades they controlled the Legislature -- and Republicans this time around are no exception.

They also question whether an independent commission could be held accountable.

''It's time for [the Democrats] to move on and do the best they can with the rules we have,'' said Carole Jean Jordan, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida. ``We were able to build our base with the rules being the way they are, and I don't see a need for it to change.''

Some Democrats question whether the party can afford to push for a change in redistricting, given that it will require millions of dollars to secure the necessary signatures and rebuff Republican opposition.

FOCUS IN 2006

They suggest the ailing party will need to focus in 2006 on protecting its only remaining statewide seat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's, and on trying to reclaim the governor's mansion and seats on the Cabinet.

State Rep. Tim Ryan, a Dania Beach Democrat who began to revive the independent redistricting effort in 2003, said a group of Democrats he met with in Tallahassee last week were eager to take a stab at the proposal.

Democrats reeling at their poor showing at the polls in November have been brainstorming to find a path out of irrelevancy.

Ryan's effort, the political group Committee for Fair Representation, has gathered about 20,000 signatures since 2003 and plans to present them to the Secretary of State's office to launch the process.

Ryan said the group is also revamping its website, will solicit donors and engage former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor, who narrowly lost a bid for the U.S. Senate, to help with the effort.

''I'm confident people will realize this is the only way to make legislative races more competitive,'' Ryan said. ``We'd be offering voters more choices and less partisanship.''

To secure a spot on the ballot, however, organizers need nearly a half million registered voters to sign -- and because the requirement is based on the number of voters who cast ballots in the most recent presidential election, that number may now be more than half a million.

MILLIONS NEEDED

Ryan estimates the drive will require Democrats to raise about $2.5 million to hire signature gatherers and perhaps that much more to advertise the proposal.

State officials, members of Congress, lobbyists, party officers or their relatives or employees would not be able to serve on the commission, and its members would not be able to lobby legislators or seek elected office for at least four years.
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Old 12-06-04, 08:48 PM
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Good luck, FL Democrats. You'll need it.
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Old 12-06-04, 09:01 PM
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Personally I'd rather it be "multipartisan" but I guess that's too much to ask for Actually at this point it wouldn't be too hard to write a computer program that uses population as the major factor and draws districts based on that.
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Old 12-06-04, 09:12 PM
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and who would appoint this supposedly independent bipartisan commission that won't be accountable to anyone?
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Old 12-06-04, 09:14 PM
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Yeah, that's what's needed - another bi-partisan commission.

It's a terrible idea.
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Old 12-06-04, 11:52 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Yeah, that's what's needed - another bi-partisan commission.

It's a terrible idea.

An even worse idea than that.
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Old 12-07-04, 01:03 AM
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Either let a computer do it based solely on population, or don't change anything. Changing for a flawed system to another flawed system is a lateral move.
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Old 12-07-04, 01:36 AM
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I agree. When I hear "We are going to change this because it's flawed" from political sources, I tend to think nothing is going to really change.

One vote for one dope.
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Old 12-07-04, 03:12 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Yeah, that's what's needed - another bi-partisan commission.

It's a terrible idea.
Why?

Originally Posted by Pharoh
An even worse idea than that.
Why?

Originally Posted by kvrdave
Either let a computer do it based solely on population, or don't change anything. Changing for a flawed system to another flawed system is a lateral move.
I throw the same argument against this bi-partisan panel to you. Who will write the computer program? A bi-partisan group of programmers? Will they be accountable to anyone?

I understand that this is just the minority party pretending to be doing the right thing when in fact, they're just out to help themselves. But why is a proposal like this so bad? I think the politics SHOULD be taken out of redistricting. I'm all for this getting on the ballot and PASSING. It should be this way in all states.

BTW, I love the little cracks the author makes toward the Democratic Party in Florida.
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Old 12-07-04, 03:55 AM
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Originally Posted by DarkElf
I understand that this is just the minority party pretending to be doing the right thing when in fact, they're just out to help themselves. But why is a proposal like this so bad?
Beeeeeecause...this is just the minority party pretending to be doing the right thing when in fact, they're just out to help themselves.
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Old 12-07-04, 04:15 AM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Beeeeeecause...this is just the minority party pretending to be doing the right thing when in fact, they're just out to help themselves.
Yeah, yeah, I wholely understand this is just more partisan politics on their part, but now I want a serious answer.

I purposely worded my question saying, "a proposal LIKE this" instead of saying "THIS proposal" to hopefully avert an answer like yours. I'll be more specific.

This is a theoretical question. Forget Florida. Forget who's in power. I'm trying to present this from a non-partisan viewpoint because, in fact, that's exactly how I feel about this and many political issues. I just want to see us do the right thing. This political gamesmanship with redistricting is insane. I mean, what happened in Texas is an absolute disgrace. And if it was the Democrats that did that shit (which they also do all the time), I'd be just as angry about it. It's such bullshit. Why would any of you approve of this crap?

So, does anyone ELSE care to answer my question?
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Old 12-07-04, 08:06 AM
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Hehe. I kinda laughed after I did that.

Ok, I give in. I think it would be a good idea. I just don't know how to do it, because these days, political parties are becoming terrorist-like in their behaviors, and everyone is quite polarized these days. I mean, we can't even ask another country to do it for us, because they are polarized too.

But not to fear, I'll think of something by Friday.
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Old 12-07-04, 09:17 AM
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The real scary thing for you folks against this is that these damn Floridians love to vote yes on Ammendments to the State Constitution. Not one Ammendment on the ballot this year failed. My guess is that if they can squeeze this onto the ballot, it will pass. It's fun to click yes when you're a Floridian.

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Old 12-07-04, 10:39 AM
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If it's been this way for years how did Republicans get power from the Democrats?
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Old 12-07-04, 01:52 PM
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I think it's a good idea (but we already discussed this in the context of IOwa in last month's post-election wrap-up thread).
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Old 12-08-04, 12:33 PM
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Why does it have to be a bipartisan commission at all? In many other countries, redistricting is taken care of by civil servants whose only job is to make sure that the boundaries are correct according to the census. These civil servants are not beholden to any parties.
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