Florida Begins Redistricting Hearings
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
In Florida, a political battle is underway. The outcome will help determine the makeup of Florida's legislature and its congressional delegation. We're talking about redistricting - always a controversial process. Every 10 years, states redraw their district maps, and in the past decade Florida has grown by nearly three million people. That means it is adding two congressional seats. As NPR's Greg Allen reports from Miami, the state has new rules that attempt to take politics out of the process.
GREG ALLEN: Unidentified Man: The House redistricting hearing is called to order. Will the administrative assistant please call the roll?
ALLEN: At the hearing, Tallahassee resident Adam Anthony Biblo noted that, under current maps, even small cities like his are split up among several legislative districts.
ADAM ANTHONY BIBLO: When it's divided, whatever the intent is, it gives the appearance that it's divided for the wrong purpose, that is to dilute, diminish the effect of the voters of that urban area.
ALLEN: For legislators, political consultants and activists, it's a whole new ball game, and many, like Susan Watson of Florida's ACLU, are eager to get started.
SUSAN WATSON: Where are the maps?
ALLEN: Watson says without maps on the table, the planned 11 weeks of hearings will be meaningless.
WATSON: Start a meaningful conversation. Otherwise, you're just wasting everybody's time.
ALLEN: Another speaker, Henry Kelly, disagreed.
HENRY KELLY: With the growth of our population, I'm glad to start with a blank slate.
ALLEN: Kelly, who's with the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party, said he's even created a few congressional and legislative districts using the committee's website.
KELLY: I have found the software easy to use. It took me about 15 minutes, with the help of the videos, to become proficient and several hours to draw the plans.
ALLEN: House redistricting chairman Will Weatherford says he views the new software and maps produced by the public as a form of crowd-sourcing: drawing input from the largest number of people possible before the legislature puts its own map together. And he rejects any suggestion these hearings are just window dressing.
WILL WEATHERFORD: We think that the best way to go about his process is to take public testimony on the front end and then draw maps and then go back and take more public testimony based on the maps that you've drawn.
ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR news, Miami.
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