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Guest Opinion: Legislature’s timeline for drawing districts unfair to voters


August 9, 2011
Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Legislature plans to pass district maps at the end of the 2012 session March 9.

This means Florida's maps will be approved later than almost every other state in the nation. That leaves only three months for court approval and review by the Department of Justice, a process that at best will take much more than three months.

According to this timeline the new district maps will not be finalized and approved before qualifying for the 20112 elections closes on June 8. And they might not be finalized until August.

According to the Legislature's own lawyer, this will cause "massive voter confusion."

Challengers or new candidates will have little if any time to mount campaigns and voters will be voting for candidates they have had little opportunity to get to know.

So why won't the Legislature prepare the maps earlier, debate them in the fall and pass them the first week of session, doubling time for litigation to run its course and for preclearance by the Justice Department?

Because late maps help incumbents.

The current timeline is designed as an incumbent protection plan.

Bills were filed last session requiring maps be drawn earlier. These bills didn't even get hearings. Leadership wants to protect its incumbents.

This is outrageous. Florida voters should not and will not tolerate such blatant efforts to undermine fair and competitive elections. Where are the maps proposed by the Legislature?

Let your legislators hear from you. Join other concerned citizens at the upcoming Redistricting Hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Let's tell them what we think.

On Wednesday, Aug. 31 members of the House and Senate will be in Lehigh Acres for public hearings on redistricting. This is our opportunity to let them know how important it is to us that they faithfully follow the FairDistricts standards when they re-draw their own and congressional districts.

Michelle Guerin is executive vice president of The Lee County Democratic Party.



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