From Inside the Lines: Round-up of media coverage of redistricting for 8/17

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There are several stories about the redistricting process, so I thought it appropriate to remind you of one of the regular features of InsideTheLinesFLA.com: a round-up of media coverage of redistricting:
Several groups that backed the Fair Districts measure renewed complaints on Wednesday that lawmakers aren’t moving fast enough on redistricting and called on the Republican-led Legislature to complete its work by mid-January.
In a two-page letter written to lawmakers serving on redistricting committees, the leaders of the Florida branch of the NAACPCommon Cause, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Democracia U.S.A. said the current timeline put forward will cause “massive voter confusion” and appears to be designed to help incumbents. They said lawmakers should instead vote on final redistricting plans during the first few days of the 2012 session.
Some county commissioners have the same feeling about their upcoming redistricting process. Under the Florida Constitution and state law, county governments must use updated U.S. Census population data to redraw commission district lines every 10 years.
As county Growth Management staff last week unveiled the first draft map of their proposed districts, some commissioners argued that the process and the district system in general had little meaning beyond the fact that they are legal requirements.
South Floridians will get a chance to weigh on the future of their state and congressional districts.
But they may find lawmakers short on specifics. Officials have yet to draw up proposed maps.
The series of public hearings begin Monday in Stuart and end Thursday in the Keys.
We told you on Tuesday that Republicans were targeting Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith for taking a different position on redistricting as a party boss than when he was helping draw district boundaries in the state Senate.
Today, the Florida Republican Party of Florida issued another press release showing that four Democrats joined Smith in voting for the 2002 plan and “to support current legislative lines they now criticize.” To be fair, all four Democrats — Skip Campbell, Steve Geller, Al Lawson, and Tom Rossin — are out of office and we haven’t heard any of the four publicly criticize the current process. But that’s beside the point, Republicans say.
Four voting-rights organizations sent a letter to key lawmakers Wednesday asking them to accelerate the Legislature’s timeline for the once-a-decade redistricting process. In the letter — signed by the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Florida, Democracia USA and Common Cause — the groups say the current timeline doesn’t ensure the maps will be approved and clear the necessary legal hurdles soon enough to avoid “disaster” at the polls.
Orlando Sentinel – My Word: Districts don’t have to be compact (an editorial by Sen. David Simmons)
In November, voters changed the rules and set new standards for legislative and congressional redistricting by adding amendments 5 and 6 to Florida’s Constitution. While one amendment sets standards for legislative districts and the other sets standards for congressional districts, the amendments are substantively identical.
Politicians are often blasted for not listening to their constituents. But the Florida legislature’s plan to listen to months of public testimony about redistricting before proposing any new political boundaries is what drew a firestorm of criticism at a hearing today.
With about 40 state House and Senate members and an audience of about 300 on hand at Florida Atlantic University, a parade of speakers accused the Republican-controlled legislature of stretching out the redistricting process to try to circumvent a pair of anti-gerrymandering laws approved by voters last year.
With the Legislature’s redistricting road show opening tonight in South Florida, Republicans and Democratic party bosses are doing their best to play the warm-up act.
Florida GOP Chairman Dave Bitner wrote his Democratic counterpart, Rod Smith, a stinging letter Monday, ripping him for claiming current legislative and congressional district boundaries make Florida “one of the most malapportioned states in the United States.”
Bitner pointed out in his letter that Smith, then a state senator, largely supported the map-making in 2002 that created the boundaries he’s now ridiculing.
Florida’s decennial redistricting road show comes to Palm Beach County today.
A joint committee of state House and Senate members will hold a hearing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton at 10 a.m. today to get public input on the once-in-a-decade process of drawing new congressional and legislative districts to reflect population shifts.
The hearing, which runs until 1 p.m., is at FAU’s Barry & Florence Friedberg Lifelong Learning Center off Broward Avenue in building 31C.
Florida recently passed a fair redistricting inititative and although the republicans in the Florida state legislature control the mapping process, they cannot gerrymander the districts the way they did in 2001. In 2001, the Florida Republicans drew a map aiming to elect 18 Republicans and seven Democrats to Florida’s congressional districts, although the 2000 election demonstrated Florida is an evenly divided state. The Republicans also gerrymandered the state legislature so the Democrats could not win control of it and undo the damage the Republicans created for the Democrats. The Republicans were successful by maintaining control of the legislature. Their congressional gerrymander was successful too because even in 2008 when the Democrats gained the most seats in the House since 1992, the Republicans still controlled five more Florida seats than the Democrats did. Democrats undid Republican gerrymanders in Pennsylvania and Ohio but not Florida. In 2010, Republicans won not only the legislature but the Governorship too but Florida’s voters passed an amendment that prevented the legislature from gerrymandering for political purposes. The legislature also had to incorporate communities of interest when they redistricted. For example, a district could not contain Orlando and Jacksonville. Republicans may try to draw districts to their advantage while incorporating communities of interest but this map I drew is a real fair map for Florida. This post examines the first 9 districts in Florida, the next post will examine the next 9 districts and the last post will examine the last 9.
Legislators, I welcome you to Stuart and thank you for coming here to listen to the views of residents before you begin the arduous task of redrawing district boundaries for state house, state senate and congressional districts.  Legislators, my testimony is going to be a lot different than the other testimony you are hearing.  I am not here to complain about the process or to talk to you about geography.  Instead, I’m here to tell you and everyone in this room the truth about redistricting.  Redistricting the state of Florida is a difficult task made tougher by the passage of Amendments 5 and 6.  These so called Fair District amendments use subjective terms such as compact, practicable and feasible and untested concepts regarding minority voting rights. 
Local, state and federal governments have all set in place commissions or committees to help their citizens draw new district lines for themselves based on population shifts. This is a process that occurs every decade after the publication of the census results.Learning from the past, major Haitian-American Civil Society organizations including: the Haitian-American Forum, Sant La, the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition (HAGC) and other groups have consolidated their resources in order to serve as the collective voice designed to help guide the community’s interests. Serving under the umbrella of the Haitian-American Task-Force on Redistricting, this group is organized “ to inform and engage the Haitian community through participation in all public hearings in order to protect our collective interest”, said Gepsie Metellus, Task-Force Member and long time community advocate. “I am reminded of the damage caused by some policymakers a decade ago, as our community was emerging and attempted to seek fair representation”, said Carmeleau Monestime, a co-Chair of the Task-Force.

Every ten years, the Florida Legislature reshapes the districts of political boundary lines of every state legislative and congressional district in the State. This process is critical to your single vote and your expected representation at the state and federal levels.Please note that there will be a debate within many communities, including those among minorities, as to the implications of this process. It is well documented that Florida has a long, unfortunate history of discrimination against minorities, and this has played out in our elections and our politics. We had discriminatory election policies, like poll taxes on minority voters, and all-white primaries.

For a very long time, Florida’s minority voters could not effectively participate in the political process. Until in recent decades, there was no Hispanic member of our state senate. And until the 1992 elections, no African American had represented Florida in Congress for over 100 years. Only after a bitter lawsuit aimed at protecting Florida’s minority voters by enforcing the federal Voting Rights Act did Florida actually elect an African-American member to Congress.

But we still face discrimination in our politics, and it has to do with the way that our congressional and legislative districts are currently drawn. Some of our districts waste minority votes. These districts are overwhelmingly populated with minority voters, and it means that legislators strategically drew districts that limited minority influence to only a few districts. This wasting of minority votes dilutes the influence of minority voters over our representatives. In some circumstances, a district does not need to be majority-minority for minority voters to elect their preferred candidate. Presently, our 17th, and 23rd congressional districts, for example, are roughly 58% and 54% African-American and our 18th, 21st, and 25th congressional districts are roughly 67%, 77% and 72% Hispanic.

During the regular session that starts Jan. 10, the Legislature must redraw Florida’s legislative and congressional district boundaries based on the 2010 Census. In keeping with the Sunshine State’s strong commitment to transparency in government, the Florida Legislature has been working hard to ensure that you will have unprecedented access to all of the information, tools and resources that you need to impact the redistricting process.
With that responsibility in mind, this summer we are hosting a series of 26 public meetings on redistricting throughout the state.
The next leg of our trip goes from the Treasure Coast through Palm Beach and Broward counties. Stops include Florida Atlantic University’s campus in Boca Raton from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Aug. 16, and from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Davie campus of Broward College.
Dozens of South Floridians turned out Tuesday to blast the way the Florida Legislature is going about crafting new districts for the state House, state Senate, and Congress.”It’s a disgrace,” said Joyce Salomon of Coral Springs. “You are in self-protect mode trying to prevent fair opposition. You are afraid of us, the voters of Florida.”

Florence Fidell of Boynton Beach said what’s going on is “unconscionable.”

Just about everything the Legislature is doing on redistricting came under fire at a three-hour hearing of the House and Senate redistricting committees at Florida Atlantic University.No maps: Critics complained that that there aren’t proposed district maps for the public to comment on. “Why aren’t we seeing drafts of maps at any of these hearings so that the public can make comments on the product instead of the criteria?” asked Joan Karp of the League of Women Voters.

Timing: The Legislature’s timetable projects final districts will get final approval just days before candidates are due to start qualifying for the seats they want to seek – and that assumes nothing goes wrong that to cause delay. “You are setting our state up for massive voter confusion,” warned Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, who sees a “perfect storm of disaster” looming.

Lawsuit: The House is supporting a lawsuit challenging one of the voter approved Fair Districts amendments to the Constitution, even as the state Attorney General’s Office is in court defending the amendment. Loretta Jacobson, who lives west of Boca Raton, objected to “our taxpayer dollars being spent on a lawsuit that none of us want.”

Dave Bitner, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, sent his counterpart, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, a letter Monday taking him to task for his apparent “hypocrisy” surrounding his stance on the redistricting process.Specifically, the letter notes Smith’s current criticism of the existing legislative and congressional districts, but voted for them in committee as a member of the Legislature in 2002.

I have drawn and submitted two Congressional maps – one with my view of the Fair Districts  and the other is drawn using the Majority Minority districts as a start point, and then all the other districts drawn around it. Additionally, I have submitted a Senate map and am in the process of creating a House map, which is a thoroughly frustrating process with 120 districts.
Please do not get “hung up” on the district numbering system I used. I tried to use a color system to keep the lines easily distinguishable, so the numbers are meaningless in what I drew up.
My guiding logic:
67 counties divided by the population would result in 2.4 counties per US Representative in an absolutely perfectly population distributed state. Therefore my goal was to minimize the number of counties per representative.
Hundreds of residents attended a public meeting Tuesday at Florida Atlantic Univerisity in Boca Raton.
Peter Feaman runs his own law firm in Boynton Beach. He is concerned about the coastal communities.
“Our economy is driven a lot by tourism. If we don’t have beaches, it hurts our economy. The folks out in the western communities don’t care about that sort of stuff because their economies are driven differently,” Feaman said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.