Redistricting, Gerrymandering, and the November Elections: Big Changes?

Publisher’s Note: Please join us in welcoming Katy Burnett our newest writer to The Florida Squeeze site. Katy who is a Florida native will become a familiar name to our readers over the course of the next several months as she discusses hot-button issues in the state as well as election 2014. 

If you are a follower of The Florida Squeeze, chances are that you are following the redistricting case in Tallahassee fairly closely. The intrigue, the lies, the revelations, and the sheer drama of human emotions makes for incredibly riveting politics. Naked greed and ambition, sheer incompetence of officials, and a bold disregard for the law are so obvious that it is astonishing there is even an attempt to hide  guilt.  It should be a reality show.  Even with the doors of the court firmly closed, the suspense is simply overwhelming.

But what is this case actually going to accomplish?  Legally, gerrymandering is an intensely gray area.  Although the US Supreme Court case Davis v. Bandermer established in 1986 that the courts did indeed have a voice over the redistricting process, subsequent rulings have yet to come up with a clear rule to determine the constitutional stance on the practice. Vieth v. Jubelirer in 2004 actually ruled the partisan gerrymandering did not warrant a constitutional violation. This was upheld even under the infamous Tom Delay redistricting in Texas that was challenged in LULAC v. Perry in 2006. As Justice Kennedy points out, there is no “lemon test” for gerrymandering for the court to work off of and no clear line for determining how much partisan politics should play in the map drawing. Until the court takes on a case and makes a clear standard, the Constitutional legality of gerrymandering is fuzzy at best, no matter how many people complain against it.

While the US Supreme Court seems to be simply waiting for the perfect case to come along to determine the legal standard for gerrymandering, the Florida Supreme Court may actually get some where for us in the great state of Florida. In 2010, Florida passed the Fair Districts Amendment, which states that “No apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice; and districts shall consist of contiguous territory.” This drew a line in the sand and now it is up to the lawyers to determine exactly how much partisan influence should determine districts against the US Supreme Court rulings. This lawsuit will help etch out the boundaries of this constitutional amendment. Make no mistake, the outcome of this case will undoubtedly set the tone for years to come in the Florida redistricting process. However, what will this trial really mean for politics in the state of Florida in the short term?

Turns out, probably not much.

Does this lawsuit mean that maps will suddenly appear that are fair and competitive? No. A resounding-standing-ovation no. Oh-so-very-no. Sure, what the Republican Party did was clearly masterful manipulation and deception to ensure the safe Congressional seats. Sure, the tricks that they used were dirty. All of that was completely expected. And yes, the congressional maps will probably have to be re-drawn and a few more seats might be competitive. Will the public remember this when Will Weatherford inevitably runs for his next office? Probably not. There is no legal basis to bring charges against Weatherford or Gaetz and both of them have left the state house and in a few months more than likely they will have retreated far into the private sector. Neither of them faces any real consequence, so there will not be any significant change in behavior for future misbehavior. The only real consequence came out just this morning: there is a possibility that districts may even have to be redrawn before the election in November, which means that the fall slate of elections could be completely rearranged later this summer.

Are Democrats in any position to take advantage of this?
Nope.

Florida Democrats need to have a plan and a strategy to get that plan accomplished. Republicans do not dominate solely because they have gerrymandered safe districts: they win in the state of Florida because they have a vision and resources that are dedicated to leadership development. They attract drastically more investment because donors can see exactly where that money goes because they have a clear plan. A clear vision invites investment much more than rhetoric does. This lawsuit is not going to make a level playing field and yet, the game must go on. Democrats just have to learn how to be competitive.  The Florida Democratic Party is still struggling to get names on the ballot before the filing deadline latter this month. Would more competitive districts motivate the Florida Democratic Party to actually get out and do more candidate recruitment and leadership development? Considering the number of winnable districts that sit uncontested with just a weeks before the filing deadline, it looks doubtful. What could they possibly accomplish with more districts? Probably just continue to be incompetent.

Democrats do not need more districts. Democrats first need a vision and a plan.

The reality is that while all of this ugly underbelly of state politics is wildly entertaining, the outcome will more than likely be a mere hiccup in politics as usual. Yes, the Republican Party went to great lengths to manipulate the process. And yes, this trial is important in the long run for gerrymandering laws in the state. However, it does not mean that Florida Democrats can go any longer without some sort of plan forward. It is important to keep the focus on the election coming up later this year and not get lost in the courtroom antics.  If there is any hope to be had in this redistricting process, it should motivate the Party to get their act together.

 

20 comments

  1. Are Democrats in any position to take advantage of this?
    Nope.
    ————–LOVE IT!!! HAHAHA

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  2. Tyler · · Reply

    Grear Debut article for this new writer!!!

    Awesome job!

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  3. You sure this writer is new? She sees it so clearly so very clearly.

    I cannot wait to read more from you! Like Kartik you totally get it!

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  4. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Great column!

    All the Democrats do is whine! Go out and organize for a change.

    But Charlie Crist will solve all.

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  5. Can't take it anymore · · Reply

    What is not being said here is that its not just the Republicans who screwed this up…many Dems in the legislature voted for these maps bc it protected incumbents. Sure, the bumbling fools in this mess are the R leadership but the dems aren’t without fault. They would rather protect themselves than fight for more Dem opportunities as a whole.

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  6. I for one am sick of the backroom manipulation of the Republican shysters we all suffer under in Tally by the silk-shirt corporate lobbyists who control, and are destroying, the quality of life for average Floridians for the last 15 years or so. I have been in exile here since 1989 from what I refer to as “civilization”, and I have witnessed the deliberate, deadly destruction of most all of what made Florida a desirable place to live by these Republican cur-dogs! They are utterly without principal. Let’s review the stars of this clown show: Sansom, Jebthro, jesters Gaetz and lil Willy Weatherford, Hairydopelips, Scott for gawd’s sake–in fact most all of these non-leaders elevated by their GOP peers for these 15 years. I think Charlie Crist was brilliant to get the heck out of that den of iniquity when he got his chance! It was surely a painful experience trying to work with that pack of good ole boy bigots.

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  7. fredly · · Reply

    The next amendment battle should be to take the legislature out of redistricting entirely and replace it with an independent redistricting commission of some sort. While this won’t eliminate politics, it should dramatically reduce its role.

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    1. Fredly,

      We certainly think the best way for Florida to reapportion its Congressional and state legislative Seats is a Citizen’s Commission. As I wrote last Thursday (https://thefloridasqueeze.com/2014/05/29/floridas-redistricting-doesnt-have-to-be-a-mess-ever-again/), California’s Commission would be ideal for Florida to emulate. In 2018, when the Constitutional Review Commission convenes, it might be our best shot to make this a reality.

      NTP

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  8. What exactly was the reason that the creators of the amendment decided to leave the decision up to the legislators? That was bound to create problems!

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    1. The Florida Constitution states that the Legislature is responsible for redistricting, so it was not the fault of the drafters of the amendment. Only the Legislature itself can strip itself of this power. What the amendment required was that they draw the lines fairly, but in order to create an independent commission you would have to get the legislature to agree to do that – which is unlikely (although a fantastic idea).

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      1. “The Florida Constitution states that the Legislature is responsible for redistricting”
        —- but if the amendment changed the Constitution to give the authority to an independent commission, then the Legislature would have had no say in the matter. Since all authority comes from the Constitution, I don’t understand why it couldn’t have been accomplished

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      2. Katy,

        Excited to have you on-board! This redistricting case is pretty exciting. One side note: an independent commission could be created outside of the legislature’s approval, and as any majority in the legislature would likely reject a legislatively-initiated constitutional amendment (like in 1993 when Gov. Lawton Chiles’ constitutional amendment proposal died in the House) going outside of the legislature is probably the only way.

        We have two options: another citizen’s initiative to change the Florida Constitution, removing the power to draw maps from the legislature. Or, in 2018 when the Constitutional Review Commission convenes, they can propose a Constitutional Amendment to create a commission, as they nearly did in 1998.

        NTP

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  9. Oh, and thanks everyone for the kind words on my first post!

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  10. The other option was to have an independent commission draw the maps, however, the politics of forming an independent commission are a whole other political battle. With the 60% requirement on the ballot, the current “Fair District” requirement just squeaked by, so it would take a lot more education for something like that to pass. Even still, authority will still be given to the Legislature to pass it and then the Supreme Court to approve it.

    Here’s a great compare and contrast at what other states do – each is a little different: http://ballotpedia.org/State-by-state_redistricting_procedures

    It is a really complicated issue – one of the main question is that we don’t know what fair districts really look like and who would draw them.

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  11. […] 77 seats as Republican 42 as Democrat and one as a toss-up.  Yesterday, my colleague Katy Burnett penned an excellent article about the reapportionment process and current discussions related to […]

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  12. THIS folks is the errr… hiccup… “opposition…”!

    NON-EXISTENT, IN THE TANK WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT to ensure that the status quo is NEVER disrupted in any way, manner shape or form by anyone with integrity, courage and the ability to articulate solid, well founded positions that would improve the circumstances of those who WORK in every segment of the economy. A candidate that leaves incumbents writhing in their seat (2006) Brown-Waite… OR RUNNING AWAY FROM DEBATE OR THE SO CALLED “democratic” process of facing your LEGITIMATE challenger in open public debate (Gus Bilirakis) in 2012.

    The question arises presently, where is that young up and comer Jonathan Michael Snow in 2014? Where is Paul Elliott? Where is Kevin Hall whom some crook in the Division of Elections in Tallahassee “kited” 100 petition cards in 2012 to qualify him … (temporarily… as I caught the public servant thugs in the act as well as the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office in a coverup) before Mr. Hall’s name was removed from the ballot only to later be replaced by Paul Elliott.

    Yes, and Where is Gerald and Janet Goen from the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee working hard to keep the incumbent in office once again?

    In 2014 the Goens need only sit back and relax as THEIR FAVORED CANDIDATE (BILIRAKIS), CRUISES BACK INTO OFFICE … UNOPPOSED!

    GEEZ, DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ does not even have to step in to ENDORSE THE REPUBLICAN candidate again like she did in 2006 TWICE… to protect a CORPORATIST incumbent from ANY challenger. Let’s not forget “Show Me The $MONEY$” Karen Thurman or… Democratic Party HACK “Im a web designer who has never designed a web site” Allison Morano just to be fair. Karen Thurman in 2004 was telling Democratic Club members to vote for Mike Bilirakis rather than Democrat Chuck Kalonis!

    Ah, and Kathy Castor, holding up the CONSERVATIVE line in a very liberal district doing precisely as she is instructed to do. Who needs such “democrats” who would be viewed with more integrity IF… they/she were registered as a REPUBLICAN?

    Same for Jim Davis, (Mr. I’m ALL FOR and REPRESENT consolidation of Media Ownership) a week after he was defeated, thankfully for Governor! Jim Davis of course pulled out ALL THE STOPS to defeat Rod Smith, then quietly disappeared during the general election…. Are you beginning to see a trend here?

    Personally, I can speak to precisely the same pattern in 2004 when one young attorney Robert Whittel, a REPUBLICAN who had never before in his life cast a vote in ANY election filed to run for Congress …AS A DEMOCRAT .. while still registered as a .. REPUBLICAN!

    I am NOT making this up! The Florida Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party of Florida.

    So I have answered the question as to WHY there is no opposition from either party for these two “representatives” respectively. The two party 100% CA$H driven system is merely there for YOUR consumption. To persuade YOU to believe that there really is a competition of ideas, when the reality is quite the opposite.

    In 2012, I was the outlier. No political party will tell John Russell what to do or what policy to support, hence I was to be opposed/derided falsely by the CORPORATE MEDIA (as have others of my attitude) at every point possible in order to prevent the revelation of truth that a PUBLIC debate would provide. If ya want to get “elected” ya gotta sell out and “Play Ball” as I was asked to do in exchange for da BIG $MONEY$ in 2006 by a Big Pharma D.C. lobbyist.
    John Russell, Dade City

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  13. The fundamental issue is what I have characterized since at least 2007 as the Purposeful Ineptitude of the Democratic Party in Florida. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Lz5dzxJgA

    The Democratic Party is in reality for reasons of money, influence and power shared among a very few so called “leaders” of this morally corrupt organization a wholly OWNED subsidiary of the Republican Party of Florida.

    Read about Wasserman-Schultz here endorsing Republican Ginny Brown-Waite not once but twice in the St Petersburg Times mentioned in my previous post above. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0707/S00219.htm Any wonder why things political are the way that they are?

    Then there is the current chair of the Florida Democratic Party, former DBT lobbyist Allison Tant-Richard. If you’ll recall, DBT Inc. was contracted by then Secretary of State Kat Harris to “clean up” the Florida voter rolls in 1999-2000… Result 57,000 African American voters SCRUBBED from the voter rolls leading to the very clear consequence(s) still lingering today re:the selection of George W. Bush to the White House U.S Supreme Court.

    Who by the way is the FDP chair’s husband you might ask? Answer: None other than Democrat and former Lead Attorney for Team BUSH in the 2000 election contest Bush v. Gore. Again, any wonder why things political are the way that they are? If you’re still wonder’n then you are in more trouble than you think.

    AS a former 2006-’08 Democratic Nominee for U.S. House District 5 and most recently No Party Affiliation candidate for Congressional District 12, I can speak with some authority on this issue and can empirically support my contentions with factual evidence gathered over more than a decade of involvement in politics. If you the reader are interested, I have detailed a smidgen of my experiences in my prior post. If not, then please be advised give consideration to the meaning behind one of my first political quotes… “Ignorance Is Our Greatest Threat…”
    John Russell, 2006-08 Democratic Nominee CD 5.
    No Party Affiliation Candidate 2012 CD 12.

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  14. Here is Allison Tant-Richard in action as her political employment record is exposed. Democrats in Denial… https://vimeo.com/88703809

    Former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis advocating media consolidation at FCC hearing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvzzVlyw_Ek&index=44&list=UUBdC7QrKGRToqIZ_X6eZbLg Anyone still wonder’n? JR

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  15. davefe · · Reply

    If the voting districts stand after the obvious manipulation by Republicans, voter apathy in the sunshine state will be even worse. This is how Republicans win mid-terms here, they vote, Democrats do not.

    Like

  16. […] a few districts who are slightly more competitive. Will it make a huge difference? Probably not, as we talked about a few months ago. The bottom line is that Democratic candidate recruitment is so poor that even if more competitive […]

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