Tonight's the night. Come on out to State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and enjoy a discussion of politics just ahead of the official start to the presidential primary and caucus season, which launches in Iowa on Monday.
The Bradenton Herald and SCF, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, are staging a public forum focusing on the 2016 election. This, the latest in our series of Community Conversations, will address the lengthy presidential candidate preference season as well as issues that concern Florida voters.
The Sunshine State's primary is set for March 15, after more than two dozen states have settled on their leading candidates and doled out Republican and Democratic delegates to the national party conventions.
Should you want a primer on caucuses, primaries, voting, key dates, Manatee County's early voting sites and more, check out this coming Sunday's Opinion page. Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett has written a guest column exclusively for the Herald that will answer all your questions on the basics of presidential primary season and much more.
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Tonight's free Herald-SCF public forum offers you the opportunity to hear from well informed experts on political matters. The panel will feature Frank Alcock, a New College associate professor of political science and environmental studies as well as a frequent political commentator in the media; Rosalie Shaffer, president of the League of Women Voters of Manatee County who has organized and moderated many of the organization's political forums; and Michael Rogers, an assistant professor of comparative politics and American government at State College of Florida, who, like Alcock, is a frequent media commentator on politics.
SCF President Carol Probstfeld and Herald Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille will moderate the 90-minute discussion, which will begin at 6 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions during the latter part of the forum.
METV will tape the event for multiple broadcasts and post the video on both the Herald's website and METV's YouTube channel.
The forum will be held at the Howard Studio Theater, located in Building 11, Room 163 on SCF's Bradenton campus, next to the Neel Performing Arts Center. Please join us for a lively discussion.
These are some of the issues drawing the most media attention:
Florida's politically tainted process of drawing new congressional and state Senate districts drew lawsuits and court action over violations of the Fair Districts amendments approved by voters in 2010. The congressional boundaries were settled by a recent state Supreme Court decision -- five years after lawmakers began the process.
One of the state Senate maps was drawn by the chamber's Reapportionment Committee chairman, Bradenton Republican Sen. Bill Galvano. Earlier, the chamber admitted violating the law three years ago in allowing political operatives to influence the redistricting proceedings with partisan intent. All Senate seats will be up for election in 2016 under a new map. What does all this mean to the electorate? Will districts become more competitive between the political parties? That is the central question to the 2016 election.
Floridians could once again vote on a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana as the forces behind the failed 2014 initiative return with a rewritten ballot issue that addresses the language that opponents cited as opening the door to drug abuse. The pro-medical marijuana organization United for Care is on course to collect enough validated signatures to make the ballot.
Our wide-ranging conversation will cover many other hot topics, too, so please join us.