Last week, I took a look at the Florida House districts. Under the Florida Legislative District Boundaries Amendment that was passed in 2010, I was looking forward to seeing how many House seats the Democrats would pick up in 2012. I mean, hell, the amendment on the ballot said “legislative districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.” So the Democrats should be picking up a ton of seats, right?
After looking at the districts, I came to the conclusion that the Florida House of Representatives should look nearly the same in 2013 as it did in 2012. Yes, maybe there might be some different members, but the overall number of seats by political party should remain fairly the same. And even in a good year, Democrats would still be a good 12-15 seats short of gaining a one-seat majority. Under this new redistricting, the earliest we will see a Democrat in the Speaker’s Chair is 2023.
But you might ask yourself “but doesn’t the law say that the maps cannot favor political parties?” Exactly. But, as has been mentioned in other articles on this subject, the Republicans in the House have been very smart. And even though the Florida Democratic Party has brought up this issue, the Supreme Court said in their decision
“One of the primary challenges brought by the Coalition and the FDP is that a
statistical analysis of the plans reveals a severe partisan imbalance that violates the constitutional prohibition against favoring an incumbent or a political party. The FDP asserts that statistics show an overwhelming partisan bias based on voter registration and election results. Under the circumstances presented to this Court, we are unable to reach the conclusion that improper intent has been shown based on voter registration and election results.”
Unable to reach a conclusion? Really? Honestly, coming to a conclusion is actually quite a simple task. And even though I do extremely in-depth analysis of political districts, this is a test that the most novice of Florida political observers can figure out. This is how it works:
1. Figure out what is the likely outcome of each Florida House district.
2. Count them.
There you go, a simple way of figuring out that the Republicans will maintain a strong majority in the House. With all the millions of dollars that the Supreme Court has to investigate cased and “stuff” in general, they couldn’t hire one guy for two hours, look at the map and then count? This is easily where the Supreme Court deserves a failing mark, and not even a 59%, but more like a 20%.
Later in the Supreme Court’s decision, the court says the following:
“in the House plan, Obama would have won in 53 House districts (44.2%), while McCain would have won in 67 House districts (55.8%).”
Therefore, by their own admission, in a great Democratic year in which Obama was able to poll record results in suburban precincts and counties, the Democrats would still be eight seats short of getting a majority. So, by their own argument, Democrats will always be quite short of having a majority. Another fail by the Supreme Court.
In addition, nowhere in the ruling by the Court does it give an analysis in which Democrats could win back the House. There is nothing saying “The Democrats could take back the house by winning these districts, which would be considered marginal.” Of course, they wouldn’t say that because it would give the FDP a battle plan for 2012, but they don’t indicate anywhere in the plan how the Democrats could ever gain the majority. They try to make it look close, but every statistic they used favored the Republicans. That kind of proves the point.
While the Supreme Court says that this House map is “fair”, they contend that the Senate map isn’t fair. Why is this? It seems that in order to be considered an “unfair” plan by the Supreme Court, a number of districts MUST have three disputed criteria: favors incumbents, favors political parties, and doesn’t comply with being a compact district. Because these violations are blatant in the Senate plan, that plan was rejected.
But on the whole, the Supreme Court says that House plan is fine. Why is the Court totally unable to miss the blatant partisanship in the overall house plan, yet are able to find the Senate plan full of mistakes?
If anyone watched the hearings in the Senate last week, the word “appendage” flew around more than John McCain saying “my friends”. And in all of the districts that the Supreme Court questioned in the Senate plan, the lack of compactness, or having appendages, was the overlying factor in every single case. But in the House plan, there were lack of ‘appendages’.
Therefore, is that all the court is looking for? If a plan has too many “appendages”, it is bad. If the plan doesn’t have that many “appendages” it is good. It seems that the reason both plans took different legal routes is because one had excessive “appendages” and one didn’t. It seems that the Supreme Court, again, is totally unable to handle anything that takes into account any mental evaluation of the districts and instead just see “if they look pretty.”
Some argue that the FDP might have been too ambitious in trying to have both plans thrown out. In fact, Rod Smith and the Party were totally justified in their argument. And the fact that the House map is a blatant violation of the Fair Districts law but still survives the Supreme Court shows that Democrats have a huge fight on their hand.
It seems that the court is only looking at the issue of incumbency and compactness and disregarding party advantage. They seem to only look at party advantage in relationship to an incumbent, but not regarding overall plans themselves.
Hopefully, the simpletons on the Supreme Court will make a fair map. But if they consider the House map “fair”, don’t hold your breath.