Good government groups try to eliminate gerrymandering

11/26/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Even with a huge Democratic wave across the country, in Florida, Republicans had no trouble holding their big majorities in the Florida Senate and House. Three Florida seats turned over in the U.S. House, but one of those was held by a scandal-plagued Democrat. In the presidential race, Barack Obama won Florida handily, but his momentum didn't extend to state contests. That’s because the districts have been gerrymandered to favor incumbents, which in Florida, are heavily Republican.

In the 90s, when Democrats controlled Tallahassee, it was the exact opposite. Some activists are now trying to ensure that the Legislature follows specific guidelines when they next redraw district lines in 2012.

Ben Wilcox is executive director with Common Cause Florida, one group trying to get two amendments on the ballot in 2010 to address the problem.

Earlier this month, California voters voted on a similar measure. The vote is so close that the votes are being recounted, but it appears it may eke out. The initiative was supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and would have a citizens commission draw such district lines. The measure being sponsored by the League of Womens Voters and Common Cause in Florida would not give the job to an independent board, but instead leave to the Legislature. WMNF asked Ben Wilcox of Common Cause why?

The proposal has the strong support of Florida Democrats. If the measures get on the ballot, opposition from at least some Republicans – who could see their influence diminished – could be expected. But Common Cause’s Ben Wilcox says his group isn’t doing this as a way to carry water for the Dems.

Advocates have collected over 80,000 signatures so far, enough to trigger the required Supreme Court review of the amendments. There are actually two amendments – one for drawing congressional district boundaries, and one for drawing legislative district boundaries.

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