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Miami Herald Editorial: War of the maps begins

Drawing lines on a map may seem like child’s play, but once every 10 years it’s more like the war to end all wars. Political skirmishes, partisan sniping and incumbent protection are all part of the action. Voters’ best interests remain an elusive thought.

Last week, one fight erupted at the Miami-Dade School Board when one new member, Carlos Curbelo, pushed through (with support of various other members he has hosted in fund-raisers for their re-election) a newly drawn district that conveniently took out a portion of his current district where past School Board candidates live and gobbled up parts of Marta Perez’s current district.

Expect bigger fights. Now that the Florida Senate has released its first proposed maps for new state legislative and congressional districts, it’s clear the battle lines have been drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans and where the number of nonaffiliated, independent voters continues to grow. Incumbents somehow mysteriously remain protected in the new proposed districts.

And when that became difficult to accomplish, the Senate Redistricting Committee found ways to play around with term-limited members, such as Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ Merritt Island district, which has been wiped out to make room for other Republicans who need to keep their seats. An example closer to home: Term-limited Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich’s predominantly Broward district now moves mostly to Palm Beach County.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. An overwhelming 63 percent of Florida voters approved Amendments 5 and 6 to ensure that legislative and congressional districts would be compact and respect the state’s diversity without focusing on partisan advantage or incumbent protection. Alas, Florida’s old gerrymandering ghouls remain in Tallahassee.

Expect lawsuits. Courts will have to settle the lines once again, as they’ve done in years past. And the stakes are high, as the 2010 Census showed strong Hispanic population growth in Central Florida. But this time, the rules were clarified by Florida voters: They want fair districts that are compact and represent all Floridians. That’s not what they’re getting from the current crew in Tallahassee.

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