Senate panel thinks it’s got a winner — lottery system yields new district numberingby John Kennedy | March 21st, 2012
After two days of testimony about oddly shaped district “appendages” and increasing tension between senators, the Senate Reapportionment Committee wrapped up its work Wednesday by bringing out lottery machine cages to select random numbers for new Senate boundaries.
“Bizarre is the word,” said Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach.
Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, recommended the lottery-like selection process to determine odd-or-even number districts. Odd-numbered districts get four-year terms, even districts draw two-years. In throwing out the Senate’s first attempt at line-drawing, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the original numbering plan favored incumbents.
Gaetz said he was intent on finding an “incumbent neutral plan.” Gaetz said the system he deployed was reminiscent of what he recalled being used by the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) at his girlfriend’s church during schoolyard socials when he was a teenager in North Dakota.
But the system wasn’t fully embraced.
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Tampa, said the Senate shouldn’t be “casting lots,” for districts and later sought unsuccessfully to have the selection stopped on grounds it violated state gambling laws. Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, condemned the lottery, saying it was wrong to bring a “quick pick” approach to settling public policy.
Another critic, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Jacksonville, questioned whether the green lottery balls used to determine the even numbered districts had been recently painted, making them heavier and affecting when they dropped from the cage. She was assured by Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston that the balls were green when shipped to the state from a factory.
The Senate now is positioned to debate its latest proposed redistricting plan Thursday, with a vote scheduled for the next day. Gaetz said he will include an amendment to the plan Thursday that incorporates the new odds-and-evens numbering system that emerged from the lottery system.