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Dwight Dudley calls for independent commission to redraw Florida congressional districts

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Although it wouldn’t take effect for seven more years, Pinellas County House Democrat Dwight Dudley says it’s time for Florida to take the political act of redistricting out of the hands of (Republican) politicians, and into the hands of an independent political commission.

That’s what’s now the law in six states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington (though with only one representative, Alaska and Montana don’t actually need one). But most of the states have drawn their congressional and legislative districts through their legislatures. Thirty-seven state legislatures have primary control of their own district lines, and 42 legislatures have primary control over the congressional lines in their state.

But just hours after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Republican-led Legislature gerrymandered eight congressional districts during the 2012 redistricting process, Dudley says it’s time that Florida went with a bipartisan, independent commission.

“For far too long, we have had a poor facsimile of democracy in the State of Florida,” the House District 68 representative said today in a statement. “Instead of voters choosing their elected officials, it has been the elected officials who have chosen their voters. Despite a clarion call from the people to end gerrymandering and restore fairness to the redistricting process, the Florida Legislature has continued to engage in misdirection and skullduggery.”

Dudley says that an independent, bipartisan commission to redraw congressional and legislative districts every decade would allow for bypassing “the corrupting influence of the Legislature.”

“I urge my colleagues in the Legislature, and anyone else who believes in democracy, to join me in that effort.”

To get such a law passed would need the same Republicans who Dudley says are “corrupting” to agree to take the control out of their hands and into an independent commission. Arizona and California, the last two states to create such commissions, both did so via ballot initiatives.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that voters had the power to strip elected lawmakers of their authority to draw district lines.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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