Gaetz proposes redistricting process change

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  • | 12:00 p.m. August 31, 2011
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The Legislature could consider a constitutional amendment to change the time line for redistricting votes in an effort to address a barrage of criticism lawmakers have heard as they have traveled across Florida, Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz said Tuesday.

The idea floated by Gaetz (R-Niceville) marked the second time in as many days that the lawmakers spearheading the once-a-decade redistricting process appeared to try to mollify increasingly vocal critics of the current process.

Voter-rights groups and citizens who have shown up for the public hearings that began in Tallahassee in June have roundly criticized the process for taking too long and for putting the public hearings ahead of the maps being drawn.

Gaetz and House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) said after a Monday meeting in Tampa that they would consider hosting videoconferences at different locations around the state to allow virtual public hearings on the maps before lawmakers vote on the final plans.

Gaetz went farther on Tuesday.

“Maybe we need to move redistricting votes to an odd-numbered year so that the Legislature and the public and the courts and the federal Justice Department all have more time,” Gaetz told reporters after the Largo meeting, where he announced he was considering sponsoring an amendment.

An amendment like the one Gaetz outlined would not affect the current round of redistricting. It could ensure future redistricting efforts don’t run into the same resistance that this round of map-drawing has encountered.

Supervisors of elections have joined groups that supported the Fair Districts anti-gerrymandering amendments in arguing that a delayed finish to redistricting could make it nearly impossible for incumbents to be effectively challenged and could cause mass confusion at the polls.