Another ten years has past and, once again, Florida is looking at our leaders engaging in the embarrassing exercise of redistricting at the state and county levels.
What are the political parties afraid of? Making districts competitive should be the goal. This is the only way to ensure that one person, one vote means what the Founding Fathers wanted when they crafted the Constitution. Political priorities, ensuring trying to build a partisan advantage, simply should not be the purpose when we draw up new districts.
Redistricting is particularly egregious in Duval County where, fifty years ago, the federal government required four minority council seats and one at large council seat to guarantee that Democrats and African-Americans have a voice in city government. The federal requirement has created a gerrymandered mess, preventing additional opportunities for Democrats and African-Americans to get elected. Two of those districts stretch from downtown Jacksonville to the border of Nassau County. Two parallel districts on Jacksonville’s Westside have led to a third gerrymandered district stretching from Avondale to the border of Clay County. This federal imposed decree from fifty years ago should be abolished or challenged.
Ten years ago, I proposed that districts touching the north and the west sides of the St. Johns River be similarly compact and community-based as the ones to the south of it. Doing so would make several districts more competitive and offer more representation for minority communities. Democrats liked the idea but the Republicans did not–which was shameful then and shameful now.
People running for elected office should win on ideas and issues, not on restricted boundaries. I believe in fair play. We should not let another ten years pass without more districts for minority communities.
Matt Schellenberg was first elected to the Jacksonville City Council back in 2011 and won a second term in 2015. He served on the committee dealing with redistricting back in 2011. He was term-limited in 2019.