State Lawmaker Wants Independent Redistricting Commission

Dec 1, 2016

A prolonged battle over district maps between Florida lawmakers and the state Supreme Court came to an end earlier this year. Now a South Florida legislator wants to put independent citizens in charge of redistricting.

Gerrymandered districts unlawfully favor one party over the other. The term is named after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry.
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Every ten years, the Florida Legislature redraws the districts of state and congressional lawmakers, based on new population numbers. Where those lines fall can fundamentally change which voting blocs hold sway: urban or rural voters, liberals or conservatives? Historically, some lawmakers have skewed district lines in order to get themselves re-elected. But Broward County Representative Evan Jenne wants to put independent voters in charge of the process.

“It would be driven by citizens and include people that aren’t politicos, people that aren’t seeking office. It’s going to be as pure a body as we could put together,” Jenne said.

Under Jenne’s bill, a nine member commission made up of democrats, republicans and third party voters would redraw the maps, but state lawmakers would get final approval. But the democrat admits it’s an uphill battle: lawmakers have little incentive to support a bill that would limit their own influence.

“From a logical point of view I understand. People don’t want to give up power. But to me it’s the right thing to do. But as far as my colleagues go? Have a lot of people from both sides of the aisle express a lot of interest in it. There’s an appetite for it, I just don’t know if it’s 61 members or not,” Jenne said.

The shift towards an independent redistricting commission is part of a nationwide trend: district maps in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington are all redrawn by a team of independent voters, instead of elected officials.