The 2022 Redistricting process is underway in Florida and while secrecy has dominated the proceedings, causing fear among people like me (I am a believer new district lines should be drawn by staff or commissions or courts – NOT by elected representatives), the early returns are more positive than I thought they’d be.
As I’ve discussed before on these pages, I was very involved in the 2002 Reapportionment process representing Democratic Party-aligned interests and we got hammered by about as blatant a partisan gerrymander as you will ever see. At the time, Florida was a 50-50 state as evidenced by the 2000 Presidential Election. Republicans had also just lost a US Senate seat in the state and were determined to press for every advantage possible. In addition the influences of Mario Diaz-Balart (term limited in the State Senate, ran for the State House just so he could draw himself a Congressional District) and House Speaker Tom Feeney, resulted in ofdd-shaped, Republican-leaning Congressional Districts drawn specifically to elect the two individuals named.
In 2012, while many Democrats complained about the maps, I felt the State House map was really accessible for the Democrats (in fact, argued at the time it was a generous map for the Dems, I believed designed by GOP leaders to rid their caucus of problematic moderates from swing districts) while the Congressional and Senate maps but that the Senate and Congressional maps were pure partisan gerrymanders. The courts saw what I did and affirmed the House map, while tossing the other two forcing a redraw which has been much more equitable. One Congressional seat that appeared competitive on paper was actually won in tough General Election by Ron DeSantis, and the rest as we say is history.
Given the pressure from national Republicans to lock-in as many GOP seats in all legislative bodies as possible, I was pleasantly surprised by the initial set of maps released this week. While the maps certainly advantage the GOP, they don’t push the advantage anywhere near what happened in 2002 and seem to be softer for Congress and Senate than the adopted maps in 2012 that were thrown out in court.
I would note that in some urban areas population is not growing at the same rate as the rest of the state so while I’ve heard some groans about Dems being drawn in together, I don’t see these situations in as a partisan a light as some other might.
So while optimism about maps dominates my thoughts now, I must remind readers this is a long process and no doubt, one or two hyper-ambitious Republicans will find a way to try and manipulate to process for personal advantage. But so far, not nearly as bad I had feared.