The Senate continues to misfire in the reapportionment debate. In their brief to the Supreme Court the Senate lawyers have claimed that the chamber fixed every objection of the court in the initial plan which met with court rejection. The Senate argued that they had fixed the problems in Central Florida but in reality they have continued to gerrymander two districts, overlapping multiple communities of interest and ensuring two Orange/Seminole County based seats continue to elect Republicans despite the overwhelming swing politically against the GOP in the area over the past ten years.
The idea of large portions of Polk County being represented by an Orange County-based legislator should be enough to get this plan tossed. Polk, which has had some of the most powerful resident Senators over the past 30 years, has long been a moderating influence on the chamber. When the Democrats were in the majority the likes of Bob Crawford, Rick Dantzler, and Curtis Peterson were to the right of the majority of Democrats. In the GOP majority era, the likes of Paula Dockery and JD Alexander have been moderating influences on the entire framework of legislative policy.
Potentially stripping Polk County of an additional resident Senator despite robust growth not only ensures continued service from Andy Gardiner but probably undermines advocacy for agricultural interests in the state. Moving further south, the Senate argues they have fixed the district where Ellyn Bogdanoff could run in southeast Florida, but the reality is they have drawn a 55 mile long district designed to keep as many GOP voters in heavily Democratic Broward & Palm Beach counties in place to help Bogdanoff’s cause.
Perhaps the most comical part of the Senate’s brief is that the non-partisan plan pushed by various good government groups, and this week supported by the Florida Democratic Party, is a partisan gerrymander. As the comments on earlier posts on this site indicate, many Democratic activists feel the plan Rod Smith and the party lawyers signed on to is not partisan enough. It is, in fact, a plan that endangers several Democratic incumbents and ensures a continued GOP majority, albeit a smaller one. The non-partisan plan draws compact districts based on communities of interest without regards to party performance or incumbent protection. This was the criteria that led 63% of Florida voters to cast ballots in favor of the 2010 Fair Districts Amendments.
What the Senate’s arrogance is continuing to show is that politicians of both parties cannot be trusted to draw the maps. It is entirely possible that irrespective of how this court case is decided, in the next decade a push for an independent redistricting commission will resurface. Fair district standards are great, but most politicians who are in power cannot be trusted to ever follow the law even when the law is clear.