The Florida Senate has stepped into it again. After being slapped down by the Supreme Court almost two weeks ago, the GOP leadership attempted a quick redraw of its district map to comply with the court order. But as this site has editorialized and others around the state have correctly pointed out, the new Senate plan is no closer to passing constitutional muster or fixing the age old problems of incumbent and partisan protection than the rejected map was. Unlike in 2002 when the Senate was able to conduct itself with the utmost arrogance and draw districts that maximized partisan political advantage while protecting almost every incumbent Democrat, the citizens of Florida have fought back and forced a constitutional change that was designed to prevent such a situation from recurring.
Despite the common sense that prevailed in the usually hyper-partisan Florida House, the Senate leadership continues to thumb its nose at the citizens of Florida who overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Fair Districts Amendment which mandated very clear rules for how legislative districts are to be drawn. Following an incredibly arrogant amendment by Senator Jack Latvala, the former statewide king of GOP direct mail, which drew a partisan gerrymander reminiscent of 2002, the intentions of the Republican leaders were perfectly clear. They would use any means to hold on to their power, even if it meant proposing an EVEN MORE UNCONSTITUTIONAL MAP, to make the Gaetz plan appear less afoul of the constitution.
In Tuesday’s committee hearing on the new Gaetz proposal, more questions were asked even by GOP rank in file Senators who appeared to be concerned about sending yet another unconstitutional map forward for court review. Senators, including a few on the Republican side of the ledger, came prepared with excellent questions regarding districts that did not affect their own, implying a deep concern about the map’s constitutionality. Chairman Don Gaetz has made an effort to placate his own leadership allies while attempting to draw a map that appeared less partisan. It could be argued that the new Gaetz proposal is marginally better than the map that was thrown out by the court less than two weeks ago, but nibbling around the margins rather than a total redraw does not ensure anything but another Special Session or perhaps court drawn Senate districts.
The ball is now squarely in the court of the Senate leadership. They technically have a week left in Special Session to produce a map which will eliminate all questions of constitutionality. They would be wise do so and insulate themselves as individuals and their party from the wrath of angry voters.