Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Legislative Leadership Trying to Undermine "Fair Elections"

In the last few weeks, more than 31,000 activist joined together and took action to defeat SB 6, a legislative education proposal that would have turned our classrooms into test-prep factories and driven good teachers out of the public schools. And it worked -- Governor Crist vetoed the bill, and the public outcry ensured that the Senate could not muster enough votes to override the veto. The defeat of SB 6 is a shining example of the power of citizen activists to shape the future of our state when they band together, and we're proud to have played a part in this victory.

Yet, despite this widespread public outcry, House and Senate leadership shoved the bill through without even slowing down. Have you ever wondered why legislators often seem to blatantly disregard public opinion, passing legislation no matter how broad the opposition from their constituents?

Well, here's your answer: redistricting. If you don't know exactly what that is, don't feel bad...many voters have no idea how this process works. Every ten years after the national census, each state is required to redraw its legislative and congressional districts. The process is supposed to ensure the districts reflect population changes. In reality, the party in power gets the chance to use sophisticated software and data analysis tools to draw districts that maintain and increase their power and make it almost impossible to defeat incumbents, a tactic known as "gerrymandering."

Because most legislators are elected by voters chosen just for them, they know their re-election is virtually guaranteed. And so they feel free to brazenly ignore public opinion, even outrage as great as that generated by SB 6.

A bi-partisan organization called Fair Districts Florida has led a citizens initiative to put two constitutional amendments on the November ballot that would put an end to this practice. The legislature could not draw districts to favor either political party. Instead, the districts would have to be compact and community-based, following city and county boundaries where possible.

As you can imagine, legislative leadership doesn't like this idea one bit. The majority party could no longer guarantee their continued power and most legislators would have to face competitive elections every cycle, rather than assured re-election. So last week, the House and Senate introduced resolutions to place a competing amendment on the ballot...one that would gut the provisions of the citizens amendments and maintain the status quo. The press has said the move demonstrates their "disdain for democracy" and called the proposed amendment a "poison pill designed to fool voters."

You can learn all about the issue in this article.

If you believe voters should choose their representatives fairly, rather than in elections already rigged to favor one party over the other, you need to take action now to fight the passage of these resolutions. If you want legislators who respond to their constituents' concerns, rather than ignoring them because their re-election is virtually guaranteed...use the tools below to make your voice heard! But do it quickly -- the resolutions could be voted on any day now.

1. Using this quick online tool, you can add your personal message to a pre-written email to legislative leadership that explains your opposition to their proposed amendment and lets them know you'll be watching their actions on this issue.

2. Sign this letter to all members of the House and Senate urging them to vote no on these resolutions in committee and on the floor.

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Spread the Word...There Is Power in Numbers

As you saw with the SB 6 veto effort, citizens have to join together if their voices are to be heard. CIVIC has been growing its membership of citizen activists for years so that when quick action is necessary, everyone is ready to jump in. We need your help to make the community even stronger, ready to take on whatever crazy idea the legislature comes up with next.

Facebook is a great way to spread information and encourage Floridians to take action. Please become a fan of CIVIC, and ask your FB friends to do the same. You can also post links to CIVIC's issue articles or action items.

Urge family and friends to sign up here and use the tell-a-friend feature on our website

Click here to become a Facebook fan.

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Contribute to CIVIC

Can you support CIVIC with a tax-deductible contribution of $10 or $20 today? CIVIC monitors legislative activity because we know average citizens don't have the time or expertise to do it. We analyze the impact of proposals, communicate timely information to our members, and provide easy tools for effective action. All of that takes funds. CIVIC is supported by its members, and we need your help. Even a small donation of $10 or $25 will help offset our costs for the 2010 Session.

Please consider making a contribution to support the CIVIC community today!

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