Redistricting campaign heats up

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Posted on August 31, 2009 - 12:33pm by Anonymous.

Florida's Ballot initiative to ban gerrymandering starts to draw foes

By Adam C. Smith, Times Political Editor 
In Print: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Forget that the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat and every other statewide office are open this election cycle. The 2010 campaign that could have the farthest-reaching implications for Florida is a redistricting ballot initiative that would change the way congressional and legislative districts are drawn.

"We're going to establish some fairness standards so the legislators can't choose their own voters and we the voters have a chance to really pick our legislators," Miami lawyer Ellen Freidin, leader of FairDistrictsFlorida.org, said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9.

If the two constitutional amendments pass, congressional and legislative voting districts could not be designed to favor any political party or incumbent. Districts would be neatly shaped and take city and county boundaries into account, rather than the current system where state lawmakers use computer programs to map districts based on voter demographics and partisan leanings.

"The city of Temple Terrace right now has four different members of Congress representing it. That shouldn't be," said Freidin.

There is no organized opposition lined up yet, but Republican lawmakers with a stake in protecting their majority are likely to mount an aggressive campaign against it. Though prominent Republicans, including former comptrollerBob Milligan and lawyers Thom Rumberger and Nathaniel Reed are among FairDistrict's co-chairmen, it is heavily funded by Democratic-leaning groups such as the Service Employees International Union.

State House Majority Leader Adam Hasner sounded the alarm last weekend at a state GOP conference.

"It is a stealth agenda funded by the left to do in the courts what they can't do at the ballot box," Hasner thundered. "This is the top priority of Democrats in 2010 and it must be stopped. … The 2010 election is still not going to be easy. The permanent Obama campaign — Obama 2.0, Organizing for America — is already setting up shop right here in Florida."

Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Other political goodness from the Times:

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores. While Charlie Crist traveled to every TV major market inviting venerable public servants and would-be Senate appointees to fawn over him before the cameras, Young showed off a mischievous streak. Rather than just tell Crist's staff no thanks over the phone, he showed up to Crist's interview in Pinellas dressed like he was in the midst of mowing the lawn and told the surprised governor had no interest in the job — nor, apparently, his dog and pony show.

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