Informed Voting and Civic Engagement is Paramount this Year

by Raechel Garafalo, LWVSPA Voter Service Chair    

Our 2016 elections in Florida carry particular significance for a couple of reasons. First, Ballot Boxthe new district maps will place more state Senate seats on the ballot than in years past, potentially changing (slightly) the senate’s political make-up now, and more so by the next major election cycle; second, the newly elected legislature will be appointing nearly 50% of the 37 member Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), a body that last convened in 1997.

The CRC will form again in 2017 to review and recommend changes to the Florida Constitution.

Redistricting:  The Next Big Step in Carrying Out the Will of Florida Voters

On Dec. 30th, Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters of Florida’s (LWVF) redistricting lawsuit and adopted our proposed redraw of the Florida Senate districts map. Steve Bousquet reported in the Miami Herald that all 40 Senate seats will be up for election next fall for the second time in four years–an unprecedented consequence of Florida’s redistricting saga.

Another byproduct of the ruling is the random renumbering of all 40 of these newly redrawn districts by the Auditor General. Senators who are assigned odd numbers would run for four-year terms in the fall, and senators in even-numbered districts would run for two-year terms, followed by four-year terms in 2018–if they’re not termed out by then. Those “even” senators would potentially serve an additional two years for a total of 10 years under the Florida system of electing senators to staggered terms, Bousquet posts. Not only that but, the redrawn districts and associated number shuffle mean that, unless some Senators choose to relocate within the new district boundaries, they will be competing for the same district as other seated Senators.

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Florida’s CRC: The power to create a lasting impact 

Next year the commissioners appointed to the Florida Constitution Review Commission will take up their charge of reviewing the Florida Constitution to bring recommended changes to voters.

Changing a constitution has a much more lasting impact than changing state laws. Florida’s CRC is historic in that it occurs only once every 20 years. Those 37 commissioners will ultimately decide on proposed changes to the Florida Constitution that will make it to the ballot for a voter decision in 2018.

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What does this mean for the conscientious voter (besides casting his/her ballot)?  …lots of pre-election homework to learn about the state legislative candidates and their positions as more of them compete for seats within the redrawn, renumbered districts.

It is also important that, after the election, we voters bone up on the constitutional amendment process, monitor appointments to the CRC, and attend (or, at least, follow) the public hearings conducted by the CRC. Follow LWVF and your local League to stay informed about candidates and the issues important to you, as the 2016 Election season progresses.

How can you help this election year?

If you’re looking to make a difference and become involved during this very important election year, the League has several volunteer opportunities. Please get in touch with Voter Service Chair Raechel Garafalo if you’d like to help register voters, Get Out The Vote, participate in candidate forums, or work on our 2016 Voter Guide. Our League needs YOU!