Group: Redistricting issue ready for ballot

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 11:30 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE - A group that thinks drawing political boundaries is a job for an independent commission and not politicians said Tuesday it has enough signatures to put the issue on November's ballot.

The Committee for Fair Elections said it has turned in more than 900,000 signatures, far more than the 611,009 needed to put it on the ballot. As of Tuesday evening, elections supervisors had certified almost 580,000 signatures. The deadline for certification is Feb. 1.

The ballot question would ask voters to create a 15-member commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. Members would be selected in a nonpartisan process and would not be able to seek elected office for four years after serving. Two-thirds of commissioners would have to agree on the districts, and if they couldn't agree by a deadline, the Supreme Court would set political boundaries.

"Certainly we all want to see more competitive districts and more accountable legislators," said state Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Dania Beach.

"No politician should be afraid of a competitive election."

Supporters say the need for the measure can be seen in recent elections, where many incumbents for Congress and the Legislature go unchallenged or don't face strong opposition.

"Not one incumbent lost in 2004," said Paul Dunn, a spokesman for the group proposing the amendment. "There was only one congressional race that was within 10 points."

Similar ballot questions were rejected in California and Ohio last year.

Three U.S. representatives - all Republicans from the Miami area- have challenged the proposal: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments next month on whether the proposal can be placed on the ballot. The Supreme Court must decide whether the initiative deals with a single subject and that the title and ballot summary are not misleading.

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