Gerrymandering Petitions May Have Enough Signatures

U.S. Congressional District 11
Supporters of FAIR say Florida's U.S. Congressional District 11 is an example of gerrymandering.
TAMPA (2009-12-28) -

A group that wants to end gerrymandering says it has enough signatures to put the issue before Florida voters in November.

Fair Districts Florida is sponsoring the petition drive for a constitutional amendment. It would force lawmakers to draw districts that are compact, contiguous, and follow city, county and geographic boundaries.

There are actually two petitions -- one dealing with state Legislative districts, and one for Congressional districts.

The group has gathered more than 1.6 million signatures – about 300,000 more than what’s needed. Those signatures must be verified by county officials before a February 1 deadline.

Spokeswoman Ellen Freidin says it’s been easy.

“This signature drive went faster than any signature drive in the history of the state of Florida,” she said.

Some leaders in the state Legislature have come out against the proposal. They say it could violate the constitution and hurt minority politicians.

But Freidin says the amendment would protect minority voters.

“That’s a totally bogus claim, and it’s a red herring and a scam. If there was something about the way the district was drawn that made it compact, but diminished the ability of minority voters to elect representatives of their choice, the language of the amendment specifically says the compactness does not apply.”

Freidin says Florida has one of the most uncompetitive political systems in the country.

The proof? In presidential races, Florida is considered a competitive state, and there are about the same number of registered Democrats and Republicans here.

But at the same time, Republicans dominate the Legislature, and make up 15 of Florida’s 25 representatives in the U.S House.

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