Last summer, The Ring of Fire posted the story of a case in Florida involving gerrymandering, the egregious practice of drawing election districts in such a way as to keep one party in power. In July, the Florida Supreme Court told both political parties to redraw state election districts, which for decades has given the GOP substantial majorities in the Florida legislature – despite the fact that a slight majority of Florida voters identify themselves as Democrats.
Florida’s convoluted districts have also given the GOP an advantage in Presidential elections. According to the filing, the most recent Congressional Redistricting Map from 2010 violates Article III, Section 20 of the Florida Constitution:
No apportionment plan or individual 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 law, of course, describes the very antithesis of gerrymandering.
Since last summer, both parties have come up with proposals for new districts. Last week, the Democrats won the first round when the Honorable Judge Terry Lewis of Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit recommended their first proposed map. It is not a done deal; this is only the first step. The proposed district will now go to the Florida Supreme Court for further review. However, considering that the Sunshine State’s Supreme Court hasn’t been ruling in the GOP’s favor lately, chances are good that the district will be redrawn in a much-less partisan way. Given Florida’s demographics and voting tendencies, a number of Republican incumbents facing Democratic challengers are likely to lose their offices.
It’s a two-edged sword. For example, Democratic Representative Gwen Graham’s 2nd District has been reliably Democratic for many years. The proposed new district boundaries now contain mostly GOP voters, meaning she will have to fight hard in order to retain her seat. Alternately, she may decide to run for the Senate or the Governor’s Office, as political analyst Steven Wolf speculated recently on Daily Kos.
Nonetheless, it appears that under less-partisan districting, the Dems are getting the better part of the deal. They wind up with the entire city of St. Petersburg as well as Orlando. It turns the 10th Legislative District from a GOP bastion to one in which Republican incumbent Daniel Webster frankly acknowledges he cannot win, should the new district boundaries receive approval. The 9th District is currently represented in the House by Progressive champion Alan Grayson, who plans to run for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat in 2016. Ironically, Grayson lost his 8th District seat to Webster in 2010. His victory in the 9th District over Republican Todd Long was a political comeback for the history books.
Beyond these key districts, however, little will change. Wolf predicts that the Dems will pick up two seats if the State Supreme Court approves the new proposed districts. However, given current demographics, the GOP will still have more legislative seats in DC than the Dems.
But at least it is a step in the right direction…and with the current trajectory of the GOP and dissatisfaction and division among Republican voters over their choices of candidates, anything could happen.
For more on this story, click Daily Kos Big win for Democrats: Judge rules for plaintiffs in Florida redistricting trial