Friday, December 15, 2017
Opinion

Florida voters' input key in drawing new district maps

Once every 10 years, the Florida Legislature is required to redraw maps for the House, Senate and congressional districts. Whether led by Democrats or Republicans, the result has always been the same: maps drawn taking into account the wishes of incumbents. It was a perfectly legal and generally tolerated practice — until this year.

As a result of two constitutional amendments passed by Florida voters, the Legislature was given new guidelines for drawing maps. Floridians spoke loud and clear. The first requirement was to ensure districts preserved the right of minorities to participate equally in the political process. Voters asked us to produce maps that did not favor incumbents and were drawn more compactly. They also asked, where feasible, to use existing city, county and geographical boundaries.

In its redistricting effort, the House Redistricting Committee undertook a deliberate effort to include Floridians in the process. From offering free mapping software to conducting public meetings around the state, we sought input from Floridians. More than 4,700 citizens attended our 26 statewide public meetings, and more than 1,600 appeared before the committee.

There were thousands of others who participated online via Facebook, Twitter, email and by watching the Florida Channel online. The committee received 300 written suggestions for redistricting maps and 177 public submissions of redistricting plans — up from only four in 2002. We also received more than 34,000 visitors to the redistricting website, 520 page likes on Facebook, 800 Twitter followers and sent out more than 1,700 informative updates. In Tallahassee, we held numerous committee and subcommittee meetings over the course of the last several months and considered several amendments that enhanced the maps and made them more legally compliant.

We produced maps that elevated the input of voters over the requests of politicians. In fact, as many as one-third of all House members currently share a district with an incumbent under the current House map. These changes impacted Republicans and Democrats alike. This is because drawing districts for specific members was not our goal. Our purpose was to follow state and federal laws and take partisanship out of the process.

The new maps embody the changes that voters wanted. Don't just take my word for it. One major newspaper described the new maps as "a record-breaking shake-up in incumbency." Another stated the "legislative maps minimize distortions. They were devised in a transparent process that did seem to follow the principles of Amendments 5 and 6."

The maps now move through the final steps of the approval process, which include the Florida attorney general, the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Justice Department. Floridians can follow the progress online at www.floridaredistricting.org.

Voters may wonder whether their input has any impact. When you speak your mind at the ballot box, will your voice be clearly heard in the halls of the Capitol? I invite you to take a look at the newly adopted maps passed out of the House of Representatives. It won't take long for you to see the difference you made in your government.

Rep. Will Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel, is speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives and chairman of the House Redistricting Committee.

Comments
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17