Florida Redistricting Begins

They're Florida's mapmakers of record - 21 men and women who literally get to draw the playing field for election day.

After three months on the road, there's one complaint the joint redistricting committee's heard over and over: It's time to do away with districts that can stretch on for hundreds of miles, bounded by squiggly lines and designed to protect the politicians who drew them.

Chairman Will Weatherford admits voters sent the same message in approving the fair districts amendments back in November.

"I think the citizens have been very clear, and they were clear in November of 2010, that they want this process to be open, they want it to be transparent, and they want it to be fair," Weatherford said. "And I feel very strongly that we've done that so far."

No matter where you live, what happens in Tallahassee is bound to have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your local elections, not to mention the balance of power at the Capitol. That's why the process is overtly political and may wind up in the courts.

The new amendments mandate districts have to look more compact, congruent, in the shape of cities and counties, and not where the most republicans or democrats happen to live.

That may endanger the GOP majority.

Ben Wilcox with the League of Women Voters worries what might happen if the mapmaking gets dragged out.

"It could benefit incumbents if the process is delayed until the last minute, and then challengers won't know what the district is going to look like, and so that would be an advantage for the incumbents," he said.

But Weatherford promises the incumbents plan to get moving. After all, they may have the disadvantage if all those squiggly lines have to go.

The public has until November 1 to send their proposed maps to the committee. State lawmakers will then have an extra two weeks to submit their designs. The legislature will convene two months early, in January, to vote on the final products.

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