Florida Supreme Court to decide if voting districts must be redrawn

Florida’s Constitution, like many other states, requires that once every 10 years the state’s legislature must review the boundaries of its voting districts and redraw them, if necessary, to bring them in line with population changes within the state. Obviously, legislatures — be they Democrat or Republican controlled — attempt to redraw voting district boundaries to favor the election and reelection of their party members.

Interestingly, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state so you would think that the legislature would be controlled by Democrats. However, this is not the case as the current voting district boundaries are drawn so that the minority party (of registered voters) can elect the majority of members of Florida’s House of Representatives and Senate.

In 2010, the voters of Florida took to the streets and obtained sufficient signatures to place an amendment to the state’s constitution on the ballot, placing restrictions and requirements on the way voting districts could be redrawn. The amendment to the constitution easily passed and the amendment became law.

In 2012, the Senate designated Sen. Don Gaetz, Republican and then President of the Senate to chair the every 10-year Senate Reapportionment Committee. Studies were made, changes implemented and the results submitted to the Supreme Court for approval.

Last year the court signed off on all 120 House district boundaries, but found the new Senate map was “rife with indicators of improper intent and violated standards that bar favoritism toward incumbents or parties, even in the way district numbers were assigned.” Since that date the battle has been raging in the courts.

The League of Women Voters, sensing that the political party in power in Tallahassee had taken advantage of its office and gerrymandered Florida’s voting districts in the redraw process, petitioned the court to reexamine the redrawn voting district maps of Florida.

A Supreme Court majority wrote “This litigation is unique because it impacts the statewide operation of government and the validity of Florida’s current system of government through the alleged unconstitutionality of the 2012 apportionment plan.”

The League of Women Voters contends that the legislature is allowing a “shadow” redistricting process conducted by political consultants and operatives in an attempt to unconstitutionally influence the legislature’s drawing of the 2012 maps. The legislature takes the position that it complied with the constitution, appointed a committee to review the current voting districts, made appropriate adjustments and submitted the results to the court for approval.

The League wants the correspondence, emails and other communications between what they allege are shadow groups and the legislature be made public for the press and voters of the state to review and pass judgment on the process. The writers of the alleged materials are asking the court to keep their correspondence confidential and, if necessary, release them only to closed-door sessions of the court. Releasing them would be, in their opinion, a release of corporate secrets and damaging to their businesses.

The Supreme Court has, as of this writing, said such documentation must be given the court but stated that the douments could not be made public. Both parties believe they have, to a degree, won.The League for the release of the documents and the originators of the documents keeping them confined to the courts. Now the originators of the disputed documents have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court in a further attempt to have this documents completely withheld from examination.

There is a great deal at stake. Voting district boundaries determine who get to vote for which candidates. How you maneuver the boundaries will determine who controls the legislature — possibly for the next 10 years.

We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement. Please send your comments to (fax number) 305-662-6980 or email to letters@communitynewspapers.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this newspaper, its editors or publisher.

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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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