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Column: How you can help redraw congressional districts

FILE- In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, speaks to the media during a pre-legislative news conference in Tallahassee, Fla. Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli are beginning their first legislative session as their chambers' leaders with a unified front and much in common. Both are conservative Republicans with business backgrounds who list faith and family among their highest values. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File) MH202
FILE- In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, speaks to the media during a pre-legislative news conference in Tallahassee, Fla. Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli are beginning their first legislative session as their chambers' leaders with a unified front and much in common. Both are conservative Republicans with business backgrounds who list faith and family among their highest values. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File) MH202
Published Aug. 6, 2015

In response to the Florida Supreme Court ruling, the Legislature will gather in Tallahassee from Monday until Aug. 21 to redraw Florida's congressional districts. Though time is short, we want to make sure you can participate.

Because the court outlined specific directives on several congressional districts — including districts 13 and 14 in the Tampa Bay area, represented now by Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, and Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa — the Legislature has created an initial base map that complies with the court's guidance. Legislative staff drew this base map with no direction from members of the Legislature or other outside influence.

The base map was released to the public and legislators at the same time. We invite you to view it, make comments or submit your own map. We also encourage you to attend our committee meetings in Tallahassee to express your opinion to the House Select Redistricting Committee and the Senate Committee on Reapportionment. If you are unable to travel to Tallahassee, you can view the meetings online via the House and Senate websites, or the Florida Channel (TheFloridaChannel.org).

Start by visiting the Web pages hosted by the Florida House of Representatives (www.floridaredistricting.org) and Florida Senate (flsenate.gov). These sites are filled with information about redistricting, including the dates and times for committee meetings and floor sessions in Tallahassee.

If you draw a map, please be mindful of the Florida Supreme Court's specific directions about congressional districts 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27. Members of the public who would like the Legislature to consider their maps should attend a meeting of the House Select Redistricting Committee or Senate Committee on Reapportionment in Tallahassee to explain their map in person, including who drew the map, who had input into the map and the sources of any data used in the creation of the map.

Members of the Legislature and the public who submit maps will need to be prepared to provide a nonpartisan and incumbent-neutral justification for the proposed configuration of each district, to explain in detail the results of any functional analysis performed to ensure that the ability of minorities to elect the candidates of their choice is not diminished, and to explain how their proposed map satisfies the legal criteria applicable to a congressional redistricting plan. Failure to appear in person to present one's map may impede the Legislature's ability to assess and consider it.

Redistricting is an important part of the democratic process. The districts drawn by the Legislature become the basis of your representation in Washington. We look forward to your thoughts and input.

Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, left, is president of the Florida Senate. Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.