Backers of remap refuse to give up
They're gambling that the state Supreme Court won't disqualify their ballot measure because of six extra words.
By JONI JAMES
Published August 24, 2005
TALLAHASSEE - A group trying to strip Florida lawmakers of the power to draw political districts said Tuesday it will continue collecting signatures for a ballot measure that is longer than state law allows.
The Committee for Fair Elections is gambling that the Florida Supreme Court will not use the mistake to disqualify the measure from the November 2006 ballot.
The measure, one of three proposed constitutional amendments dealing with redistricting, is six words over the 75 allowed by state law.
"We're going to let the court decide whether six words is really a reason to disqualify," said Ben Wilcox, chairman of the initiative campaign and executive director for Florida Common Cause. "We're hoping the court will side with 200,000 people who have already signed this petition."
The Secretary of State's Office approved the wording in March and is investigating how the error slipped through.
Gov. Jeb Bush, who appoints the secretary of state, said the office should have caught the mistake. But he and other opponents reveled in the mistake and suggested organizers should have caught it.
"There is this thing in Microsoft Word that's called "word count,' " Bush said with a grin.
Wilcox said the committee decided to forge ahead with the measure, fearing there would not be time to gather enough signatures for a new petition. The committee needs to collect 611,009 signatures by Feb. 1 to qualify for the November 2006 ballot.
It was an inadvertent mistake, Wilcox said.
The measure seeks to set new standards in the state Constitution by requiring compact and competitive districts that favor no one party or politician.
That would be a sharp contrast to the way the Legislature draws districts. To help individual politicians, legislative and congressional districts can stretch the width of the state or shadow a single road for dozens of miles.
Two other measures the group is backing appear to conform with state law.
One would create a commission of 15 citizens appointed by legislative leaders and the state Supreme Court chief justice to draw the districts. The other would require that the commission convene in time to draw boundaries for the 2008 elections.
Joni James can be reached at 850 224-7263 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified August 24, 2005, 01:14:20]
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