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Senate introduces "lotto-like" system to randomly create new district number system

Senate staffers roll the wheel to pick Senate district numbers
Senate staffers roll the wheel to pick Senate district numbers


A Florida Senate committee has approved a revised redistricting plan for the chamber. However some members are objecting to how district numbers were assigned to senate seats. James Call reports the committee used a lottery-like drawing to randomly settle who would run for two-year terms this fall.

Senators serve for four years. The terms are staggered with half up for reelection every two years except in redistricting years. Then all 40 seats are on the ballots with even-numbered seats getting a two-year term.  A mathematical quirk can give an incumbent more than the eight years in office allowed by term limits. The Supreme Court threw out the first redistricting plan because seat numbers were assigned in a way that gave every incumbent extra time in office. Senators have intensely debated how to fix the problem.

They came up with a lottery-like drawing with green and white balls to randomly assign numbers. Valrico Senator Rhonda Storms went Biblical when she objected. She called it the casting of lots.  Storms tried to halt the procedure by requesting an attorney general’s opinion on whether the committee was violating gambling laws. Committee Chair Niceville’s Don Gaetz thanked her for raising the point and allowed the drawing to continue. Storms says the lottery-like drawing was offensive and lacked the appropriate decorum.

“This decision could be made without the casting of lots; I think that’s a failure on the part of this government, on the part of this body. And I think many people, whether or not they believe this is the casting of lots, many people will look at this and say they agree with Senator Simmons that it falls below the decorum, the appropriate decorum of this body.  And it falls below our competence level.”

Gaetz is leading Senators through the political minefield of drawing district seats for which many of the same senators will compete to represent. The work product must be reviewed by the state supreme court and the federal government. The court threw out the original numbering system because it found it benefited incumbents. That sent Gaetz in search of a random method to assign district numbers.

“That is why I asked Senator Storms if she had an alternative proposal. That is why we asked not once, not twice, not three times but at least a dozen times for alternative proposals.  And we haven’t heard any.”

Gaetz will include the numbering system in an amendment when the Senate debates the committee’s redistricting proposal Thursday. Lawmakers have until March 28th to reach an agreement on a Senate map.