Calls For More Transparency On Redistricting Process
Every 10 years, state lawmakers use census figures to redraw districts, deciding which voters will get to choose candidates vying for state and federal offices. That time is once again here, and advocates are trying to open up a process they say has been unfairly closed to the public.
In 2010, Florida voters approved the Fair Redistricting amendment to the state constitution, which mandated that districts could not be arranged to unfairly favor one political party — a process called "gerrymandering."
It took a judge's ruling to get state lawmakers to adhere to the amendment. Court-approved maps were used for the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections.
Now, fair districting advocates say state lawmakers have used the COVID-19 pandemic as a cloak to limit public participation in the mapmaking process.
"This redistricting process has been an extremely secretive process," said Ellen Freidin, founder of the FairDistricts Florida Movement. "Using the delay in the census as their excuse, the legislature really has engaged in total secrecy around what their plans are for redistricting."
Freidin said legislators have only recently named committee chairs involved in the redistricting, and other assignments have not been announced. And there has not been any announcements of how the public is going to be included in the process.
On Thursday, federal census data is scheduled to be released.
Freidin said it's about leveling the playing field.
"If there's competition, people running for office know that they have to appeal to not just one extreme or another, depending on which party they're in," she said. "They know that they have to find ways to appeal to more voters, and frankly to also have motivation to work together with their colleagues."
Freidin said her group has asked every member of the legislature to sign a pledge that they would follow the Fair District Amendment. To date, only 17 out of the 160 members of the legislature have signed that pledge.