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Districting amendments appear headed for ballot

Posted Oct 19, 2009 by William March

Updated Oct 19, 2009 at 04:23 PM

The organization FairDistricts.org says it has 98 percent of the signed petitions it needs to put two constitutional amendments on the Florida 2010 ballot aimed at preventing political gerrymandering of districts for Congress and the state Legislature.

The organization now has more than 1.6 million signed petitions, said Ellen Freidin, Miami lawyer who’s campaign chairman of the group. The organization needs 676,811 registered voters’ signatures for each of its two amendments, and is aiming to gather 25 percent more than the required number to allow for those ruled invalid.

So far, Freidin said, she’s not aware of any organized opposition to the amendments having formed, but advocates expect some. Republican state legislators including House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos have both expressed opposition, saying the measure would benefit Democrats politically.

The next step, Freidin said, is, “We start running a political campaign.”

FairDistricts is hardly beginning that step, however—it has no political consultants yet, and no money. It has raised 2,105,515.77 since the beginning of this year, but Freidin said virtually all has been spent paying paid petition signature gatherers.

However, it does have a list of 2,000 donors.

In the past, both political parties have used districting to help maximize their electoral chances for Florida congressional seats and the state Legislature. The amendment backers say they’re intended only to create a fair playing field, not to benefit any party.

Initially, however, they probably would help Democrats and hurt Republicans, who control the Legislature now and used their control in 2000 to draw districting plans that have benefitted them substantially.

The next districting plan will be produced starting in the coming legislative session, and should go into effect for the 2012 election.