Inside the Lines: Timeline for redistricting drawing fire

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Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida reports that as lawmakers move toward the end of their statewide tour to gather voters’ input on the once-a-decade redistricting process, the timeline for the next step in the redrawing of the state’s political maps is becoming more contentious.

A coalition of voting-rights groups, led by the League of Women Voters and supporters of the Fair Districts amendments, is pushing legislative redistricting committees to move forward with drawing proposed maps as quickly as possible.

Critics of the Legislature’s somewhat vague timeline say mass chaos could follow if lawmakers don’t approve maps soon enough to give the attorney general, Florida Supreme Court and Department of Justice enough time to review the plans well in advance of the June 18 opening date for qualifying.

Otherwise, would-be candidates will essentially have qualifying week — from June 4to June 8 — to look at final maps and decide whether they want to make a bid.

“That’s not an acceptable amount of time for candidates to figure out where their districts are and to start to run,” said Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston.

Instead, voting rights groups are pushing for lawmakers to tee up the redistricting maps for a vote by the Jan. 13 end of the first week of the legislative session.

“We recognize that many measures come out of the Legislature with little or no public input into the final product,” said a letter signed by the League, the NAACP, Common Cause Florida and Hispanic advocacy group Democracia USA. “But redistricting is too important for a ‘Tallahassee special.’ A timeline without the deadlines we suggest is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.”

Members of the league have also showed up at the redistricting public hearings across the state to pound lawmakers for not setting up an early timeline.

After the letter was issued, House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, fired back.

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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.