Legislative redistricting: the dilemma that will not go away

The Florida Legislature is at it again — actually, still at it. Our representatives, elected by you and me, will never be satisfied with the redrawing of House and Senate boundaries, the recommendations of voters with a different interpretation of Florida’s recent amendment to our state’s constitution, or that of the courts of Florida including Florida’s Supreme Court.

For five years our elected officials have attempted to redraw the voting boundaries to favor the political party in power — the Republicans. Before we go any farther, we should acknowledge that the Democrats, when in control of our state legislature, attempted the same ploy. However, this time the battle is taking place under the mandates of an amendment to the Florida Constitution decreeing how boundaries must be established.

A series of Republican redraws were voted upon by the members of the legislature, approved, contested in the courts by opposing parties such as the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause. Each time the map was rejected by the court and sent back to the legislature for another redraw.

Finally, after much debate, the map drafted by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause was approved by state and federal courts — and all the world, including yours truly, felt the multi-year battle was finally over. Guess again.

There are many facets to the problem. First, the voters of the state overwhelmingly reaffirmed the concept that voting boundaries cannot be designed to favor any political party, while also protecting the interests of minority groups within the community. Boundaries should be set, simply stated, to recognize the commonality of a voting district, i.e., similar community concerns regardless of political party affiliation — and not reaching out, in a gerrymandering fashion, to take in voters that possibly could elect someone not wanted by the majority of voters in the core community.

Now, the current president of the Florida Senate stated “Republicans were prepared to fight to hold their majority in the Florida Senate in 2016 regardless of the map that has been crafted.”

I guess it doesn’t matter to the President of the Senate that the courts, both state and federal, have approved the plan. So much for the voice of the people.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton, is exploring a legal option to request a rehearing on the approved redirecting map. His concern? Republicans currently control 26 seats and the Democrats hold 14. Any shift in boundaries will dilute the Republican stronghold.

The cost of this controversy to the residents of Florida: To date $8 million in legal fees and the cost of legislators returning to the state capital to try over and over again to draft a map that would protect their party and at the same time satisfy the courts.

Pity the poor candidates for a House or Senate seat this coming November. Running for reelection they could find that they are going up against their best buddy for a seat that they each represented before their districts were combined — or the problem of “who am I running against or should I be even running?” As of this date, 10 months before the elections, they don’t know what district they might represent. A lot of money and talent is being wasted and citizens are being deprived of good representation.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County Republican is a good example of political uncertainty. He was elected in 2012, has the support of the Senate to become its president in 2021. That is, if he can get reelected in a district where he, as of this date, can’t identify as to its boundaries or who will be voting for or against him.

Please, let’s not have another fiasco — a public, embarrassing election, with problems that always seems to make Florida the laughingstock of America. Get it straight and behind us, please. Enough is enough.

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About the Author

Kenneth Bluh
Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at kbluh@americanbsm.com or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.

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