Fair Districts groups want lawmakers to pledge redistricting compliance

A coalition says it's prepared to go to court again to assure fair districts.

The groups that pushed through constitutional amendments to end gerrymandering in Florida and then successfully sued the Legislature to have the Legislature’s set of redistricting maps thrown out a decade or so ago, are asking lawmakers to sign a pledge assuring an open, fair, and legally compliant effort this time.

They vowed to go to court if necessary to ensure that happens for the upcoming redistricting process, which will result in new district maps for the 2022 elections. The groups were successful in 2012 when they got the court to demand Florida go back to the drawing board.

Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami on Thursday became the first to sign the pledge, at a media conference arranged on Zoom by FairDistricts Now, the League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups.

“In 2012, the Legislature proclaimed that, ‘well, now it’s in the constitution, we’re going to require our members to really comply with the fair districts amendments and we’re going to have an open, and transparent, and interactive, and fair redistricting process.’ Well, we all know that didn’t happen,” said Ellen Freidin, CEO and general counsel for FairDistricts Now.

“In fact the legislative leadership engaged in a conspiracy with political operatives to draw maps that favored the controlling party, and they were surreptitiously slipped into the legislative process in an effort to try and keep that from the public,” Freidin continued.

It’s a new decade, with a new chance to do it legally, offered Freidin, League of Women Voters of Florida President Patricia Brigham, and others Thursday.

The U.S. Census Bureau has completed the 2020 census, though the new population counts are expected to be coming out later. Those numbers will define population patterns behind the redistricting of Florida’s congressional and state legislative districts before the 2022 elections.

Thus, Freidin, Brigham, and representatives of All on the Line and Florida Rising announced Thursday they were forming the Fair Districts Coalition to push for an open process and to engage Florida residents to do the same.

They vowed to do whatever necessary to make sure the fair districts amendments are followed, including going back to court.

“It’s way too early to know, and we have great hope and want to have confidence that the Legislature is going to do the right thing this time,” Freidin said.

They pledged they will be asking every lawmaker to sign a pledge to follow the fair district provisions within the constitution, to “end map manipulation,” and to commit to drawing district lines “without intent to favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent, or diminish the voting rights of Florida’s racial and language minorities.”

Katie Vicsik, Florida State Director for All on the Line, said the coalition will publish, on the coalition’s website, the status of legislators who have or have not signed the pledge.

“We promise all Floridians that we will be following up with all legislators to make sure this process is fair and transparent,” Brigham said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].

One comment

  • Ron Ogden

    April 8, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    If the Democrats had a majority in Tallahassee, you wouldn’t hear a peep, and if anyone complained about their map, they’d tell you “elections have consequences.” This is the beginning of a lefty effort that could well turn governing Florida into the Dem and LWV train wreck of a decade ago.

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