District map must be fair to Floridians
Published: Saturday, December 3, 2011
Updated: Sunday, December 4, 2011 20:12
Last week, the Republican-dominated Florida Senate released its proposal for new federal congressional districts. In 2010, Florida voters decided they wanted Fair Districts, a decision I wholeheartedly agreed with.
Also known as Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida Constitution, these initiatives were placed on the ballot by Florida voters. Amendment 5 applies to Federal Congressional districts while Amendment 6 applies to the state level. The amendments aimed to put an end to gerrymandering, a long tradition of our elected officials drawing districts to secure their power, protect incumbents and dilute unwanted voting cohorts. These amendments intended to end this practice and were approved by 63 percent of voting Floridians in 2010, including myself, making them guaranteed in the Florida Constitution.
Specifically, the amendments state "…districts may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party." They cannot deny minorities equal opportunity to participate in the political process, and unless otherwise required, must be "…compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries."
These amendments seem pretty straightforward to me. They also appeared pretty straightforward to the 63 percent of Floridians who voted in favor of them. However, looking at the Senate's proposal, it would appear it wasn't so straightforward to our Florida senators.
That could explain why District 3, Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown's district, still snakes 200 miles down Florida. The district is absurdly shaped and goes through several different cities and counties, with various needs and communities. It is by no means "fair." It should be noted that Brown was one of the politicians who campaigned against Fair Districts, and she even filed suit. According to political analyst and blogger Steven Schale, Brown's district remains nearly the same as it did before, running from Jacksonville to Orlando, with parts of Gainesville included.
Explain to me how that is "compact" and makes use of existing city and county boundaries. Brown's supporters say that her district gives representation to African Americans, accounting for almost 50 percent of District 3's population. But I say this bizarre python of a district is drawn for the politician, not for the people she is supposed to represent. And you don't need to take my word for it — just take a look at the map.
Let's move closer to home. If we zoom in on UCF on the Senate's proposed district map, we'll find that the Senate has once again diluted the student vote at UCF. It's drawn a strangely shaped part of District 8, Republican Rep. Daniel Webster's current district, which is just three miles from the center of campus. It has also drawn a new district next to UCF, District 27, which many are labeling as the "Hispanic District," essentially splitting UCF students into three separate districts, diluting our vote and influence in the political process.
This map is far from fair, far from what Floridians deserve, and because of Amendments 5 and 6, unconstitutional. I urge all students to take a look at the maps yourselves, and be the judge. If you see what I see, call your Florida Legislators – the switchboard is 850-488-4371 – and tell them you've had enough.