This week, the Florida House and Senate begin the first four of more than two dozen public input meetings on redistricting. The meetings will allow the public to begin the redistricting conversation, allowing Floridians to share their perspectives on how to draw the lines for Florida’s new state legislative and congressional districts.
The meetings are only one aspect of the public participation process, but they are an important aspect of the process. Frequently, redistricting authorities (in this case the Florida Legislature) are asked to demonstrate how the public were given an opportunity to offer ideas and comment.
The Brennan Center for Justice, a leading redistricting reform advocate, recommends public comment opportunities before and after maps are produced. Specifically, they recommend citizens “demand hearings or a public comment period not only before draft maps are produced, but afterward…”
In 2009, one of the principal authors of Florida’s recently adopted constitutional Amendments 5 and 6, former Florida House Speaker Jon Mills, also commented on the virtues of public comment before and after maps are produced. Mr. Mills wrote that Florida’s new legal standards for redistricting would prevent gerrymandering and preserve minority voting rights by, amongst other things, “The public, the press and non-governmental organizations will have the opportunity to comment before and after the Legislature draws the initial maps…”
For those Floridians at the public meetings, this is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to talk face-to-face with members of the Florida House and Florida Senate about how Florida’s many diverse communities should be represented in the redrawn district maps.
For those Floridians who cannot attend the meetings, there are still many opportunities to watch the meetings and even participate via social media.
First, Florida residents can visit http://www.floridaredistricting.org/media.aspx to watch the live webcast of redistricting meetings, via the Florida Channel. The calendar of public meetings can be found at www.floridaredistricting.org.
Second, Florida residents can submit their comments via social media. It is recommended that social media participants clearly identify to which meeting they wish their comments to be directed. For example, including “#Tallahassee”, “#Pensacola”, “#FortWalton”, or “#PanamaCity” are easily recognizable ways to indicate that a comment is associated with a particular meeting.
Social media comments that are directed to any of the following will be included in the public record of the meeting. Time permitting, the comments may also be read aloud in the meeting.
- Facebook: Post comments at http://www.facebook.com/MyDistrictBuilder
- Twitter: Send tweets to @FLRedistricting (http://twitter.com/FLRedistricting)
- Email: Send email messages to email@example.com
But again, the public meetings are only part of the process. The records from those meetings – videos, podcasts, transcripts and more – will be archived and available via www.floridaredistricting.org. Along with information submitted via the House’s MyDistrictBuilderTM online district building application and other outreach efforts, the collective input of the public can start, sustain and watch over Florida’s redistricting process.
In fact, today Floridians can visit the resources available via www.floridaredistricting.org’s Blog & Resources page, Plan Explorer, and Meeting Records page to see how the redistricting conversation has already taken shape.
For example, the Plan Explorer page already includes early redistricting plan ideas submitted by Florida residents. The Meeting Records page already includes the library of redistricting committee meetings from the 2011 Session. And the Blog & Resources page contains many articles like this and other resources for Florida residents who wish to gain greater insight and access into the redistricting process.
All told, the Florida redistricting conversation is about to become a dynamic two-way conversation, a massive “crowdsourcing” effort, that will shape the next decade of state and federal elected representation in Florida.
So we hope to see you at a public meeting soon or hear from you via any of the resources mentioned above!