ALERT: Florida’s redistricting process must be transparent

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In 2012 Florida Legislators proved that they cannot be trusted to engage in a fair and constitutional redistricting process. As the 2022 redistricting cycle approaches, legislative leaders have been totally silent about their plans for the upcoming redistricting. Unlike any before them, they have not even appointed redistricting committees in either House. The 2020 Census results are being delivered late this year due to the pandemic and the Tallahassee politicians are using that as an excuse for keeping their redistricting plans from the public. In previous decades, plans were announced, and committees appointed well in advance of delivery of the census data. It appears that those in control may be planning to spring the maps on the public to deprive us of any chance to have input into the process. 

We must protest against this scheme. We must demand that the entire redistricting process be transparent and engage the public to the greatest extent possible. We must demand that legislators earn back our trust which they squandered ten years ago. Specifically,

All map drafting must be visible to the public in real time.

This means that the computer screens used to draft maps should be viewable online and available to any interested person at every stage of the process from computer setup to completion and passage of maps. In addition, there should be a 24/7 audio-video feed in the room(s) where map drawing computers reside so that any conversation in the room is recorded and streamed in real time. Both the drafting and the feed should be recorded in a way that they can be played back.

Communications must be preserved and made available as public records.

Currently, legislative rules and statutes expressly exempt redistricting documents and draft maps from open records laws and preservation of records policies.  These exemptions must be repealed.

All mapping data must be made available to the public in usable format.

Any and all data, including census, political and demographic data, used by the Legislature to draw maps must be made available to the public in a format that the public can download it and use it for drawing alternative maps. (For example, if election results or incumbent or potential challenger addresses are used in drawing districts, that data should be made publicly available. All other data used in drawing districts should also be available to the public.) 

Public comment and input must be solicited and accepted before and after maps are finalized by the Legislature.

Public input and comments (written and spoken) should be solicited and considered both before and after the Legislature’s maps are finalized but before a final vote is taken. All input and comments from the public should be preserved and made available as public records in a public input log including transcribed copies of hearings, committee meetings, testimony, and corresponding online comment submissions. This log should be maintained in real time and uploaded to a public-facing website. 

Ample notice of all proceedings (virtual or in person) must be given and all proceedings must be accessible to all Floridians regardless of language, economic status or disability.

All redistricting related proceedings must comply with notice rules used by the Senate and the House for other legislative business. This notice should be shared through channels that are accessible to as many Floridians as possible. Language accessibility should be prioritized, and closed captioning provided as needed. Translation services should be offered as relevant to the community. Any non-public meetings relating to redistricting should be recorded and the recordings should be made available to the public.  Virtual hearings should be conducted so that they are interactive and so the public can participate safely from their own computers or other devices. In person meetings should be held in ADA compliant locations and reasonably accessible by public transportation.