Florida redistricting battle far from over
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2012 15:02
So here we sit, six months after the redistricting committee held town halls in Orlando and citizens converged downtown to speak out for how they wish to be represented. I, along with many fellow UCF students, made my way down to decry the gerrymandering that has occurred over the UCF area and has systematically oppressed our student vote for the past decade.
For 10 years, UCF has been split up between three Senate districts, two House districts and two Congressional districts. Because our constituency was so divided between these areas, we had no one who had to seriously contend for our vote. For this reason, every politician who was elected to "represent" our area voted against our interests again and again.
The reason for this was obvious: College students tend to lean Democrat, and when Republicans are drawing the districts, they will do everything they can to split that apart. However, in 2010, the people of Florida voted in favor of adding "fair districts" to the state constitution. This ensured that districts would not be drawn to favor one party over another or to hurt minorities.
So, last week brought the moment of truth: The final district maps were passed. How did our school fare in the final maps? In some ways, well, and in others, not so well.
The House maps released by the Tampa Bay Times show a big win for the UCF student population. Thanks to our fellow students speaking out at the redistricting committee, UCF now has District 49, a wholly UCF-represented area. Forty-five percent of the district is under age 24, ensuring that whoever represents us cannot ignore us ever again. As the staff report for the map spells out, "The Committee also received testimony during the Orlando public hearing calling for a University of Central Florida-based district. The entire campus of the university is located within the district as are many of the areas where students live and work."
This marks a huge step forward for our campus and our community, but like it usually works in politics, for every step forward you take two steps back. This is exemplified in no better way than in the Senate and congressional maps.
Both of these maps appear to have completely ignored the new constitutional mandate of drawing districts that are "contiguous" and do not "favor one political party." One would be forgiven for not knowing whether these were district maps or a terrible Jackson Pollock painting.
You see, the Senate districts from the past decade were egregious and split up our student vote in ways inexcusable. Amazingly, however, the new Senate maps are even worse. UCF will be split into three separate Senate districts, ensuring another decade where the second largest school in the United States has no unified voice to speak from.
The Congressional map isn't any better, as it splits us into two districts, which means our student voice will not be heard on a national level as well.
While some maps mark a great step in the right direction, others only take us back. However, this fight is far from over. Lawsuits are already underway to challenge the maps, and the Florida Supreme Court is set to hear the case at the end of February, according to Associated Press. With all these fights in the woodwork, there's a very good chance that we're nowhere near the end of this battle.