MIAMI — The campaign to change the way voting districts are drawn in Florida brought in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz — two well-known independents — to promote its cause Friday.
But behind the scenes, much of the money for and against the reforms pushed by FairDistricts.org is tied to the major political parties.
Much of the nearly $6.9 million collected by FairDistricts.org comes from Democratic-leaning interest groups, unions and law firms. The opposition, led by Protect Your Vote, has raised $1.1 million so far. The biggest donor: the Republican Party of Florida, which gave $750,000 last week.
The GOP's interest in maintaining the status quo is obvious. The Republican-controlled Legislature is poised to redraw voting districts by 2012 to reflect population shifts tracked by the U.S. Census. Voters will weigh in Nov. 2 on two constitutional amendments that say the districts can't be drawn to protect a politician or a party.
Proponents say the current system is rigged to make sure that incumbents get re-elected, resulting in oddly shaped, gerrymandered districts.
The opposition, led by a Cuban-American Republican from Miami, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and an African-American from Jacksonville, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, say the amendments will diminish black and Hispanic voters' political clout.
The amendments have been endorsed by NAACP and Democracia Ahora, which registers Hispanic voters.
America Votes, a Washington-based political committee led by two Democratic operatives, and the Florida Education Association have been major donors for FairDistricts.org.
Major donors to Protect Your Vote include the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Association of Realtors.