As we editorialized repeatedly before the Senate vote on the revised district maps, the Senate has abdicated its responsibility in a callous and arrogant manner.Strangely enough Pam Bondi’s Attorney General’s office has delayed in filing a brief in defense of the plan with the courts. This has occurred while a consensus is growing around the state the map that passed the Senate with the support of several Democrats is unconstitutional.
”Florida Republicans efforts to delay the court’s review of the maps is nothing more than a Hail Mary pass,” said Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Brannon Jordan.What has become obvious is that the GOP probably realizes the courts are unwilling to wade into a decidedly political fight, and with qualifying week less than two months away, it is possible clock killing moves will work. This is precisely why it is important that the consensus that has developed regarding the Senate maps unconstitutional nature be expressed with a megaphone statewide until a decision is made. Otherwise it is entirely likely that the Republicans as they have done so many times in recent years will be able to manipulate both the court system and the political process to achieve their desired outcome. They will use any means to achieve their end goal which is to buck the strong wishes of 63% of Florida’s electorate who voted for the Fair Districts Amendment.
We profiled three of the problem areas last month, and with this lengthy interim period before filing the Supreme Court brief it is worth reviewing those three cases:
In southeast Florida, the Senate has maintained a long coastal district that takes as many Republican voters as possible in a heavily Democratic area in order to try and save Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff’s legislative career. In the process, the current district of Senator Maria Sachs which is fairly compact and maintains one community of interest has been split into four different districts which quite possibly will be represented by four senators from other areas. Sachs herself faces a decision on where to run or whether to run for re-election.
Continuing upstate, in the Greater Orlando Metropolitan area, the lines of two districts have been cleverly drawn to take in outlying areas and not so coincidentally improve the GOP performance of both districts. This will serve the purpose of keeping both Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and Senator David Simmons in office bucking the overwhelming Democratic trends in the area and openly conflicting with the partisan balance and compactness of the districts passed by the Florida House and approved by the Supreme Court in the same area.
Then there is Northwest Florida where the Senate has continued its practice begun under Democrats to use I-10 as a boundary between a coastal and an interior Senate district, robbing the Pensacola Metropolitan area (Escambia and Santa Rosa counties) of a resident senator and ensuring less populated Okaloosa County, the home of Chairman Gaetz maintains two resident senators.
These three problem areas affect ten different districts in different parts of the state meaning that if they are found unconstitutional as they should be, the entire state map save perhaps the Tampa Bay area will have to be redrawn. With qualifying dates looming, the Republicans have wisely stalled the process to try and prevent a fair redraw. It is critical that Democrats and other fair minded people throughout the state continue pressuring the process otherwise the Republican efforts at a power grab will succeed as they have so often in the past.