On July 11, members of the Florida Legislature were in Jacksonville for one of 26 public “hearings” on how the redistricting process will impact our community. What was promised was “the most open, transparent, interactive process of public engagement around redistricting anywhere in America.” What was delivered instead was a hearing with no real substance because there were no legislatively drawn boundary maps or proposals to review. If the legislators really wanted comments from the people, they should have given us something on which to make comments.
Last year, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved (by almost 63%) Fair Districts Amendments requiring the drawing of district lines that do not favor any incumbent or any one political party—ending our state’s shameful system of gerrymandering. Yet, legislators continue to fight the voter approved amendments – using taxpayer’s dollars on costly litigation to overturn the will of the people. What are they hiding from us, and why are they undermining the clear will of the voters?
The hearing I attended at Florida State College seemed like nothing more than a contrived opportunity for political theater, designed to make us think that our voices matter. There was no response from legislators to any of the comments from those who took the time to attend to make comments and offer suggestions.
Instead of reinventing the wheel every ten years, we need a set of guiding principles that will allow the process to be fair and consistent. The Fair Districts Amendments provide those principles. The amendments were designed to ensure that people of all races and ethnicities are fairly represented in our state, and that everyone has the opportunity to make a difference by voting and/or running for office.
Florida legislators had a chance to seek meaningful input from people in the Jacksonville communities who care about the integrity of our electoral process. But until legislators show us that they are serious about developing guiding principles that are enduring and instills integrity in the process, we will be kept in the dark.
We deserve better!
Dr. Susan Ruffin, President, Jacksonville Chapter
National Congress of Black Women Inc.
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