My colleague Dave Trotter has done an excellent job of disecting this ruling and discussing ways to mobilize Democrats in the future. While there are close to a dozen new districts that can be disputed under the Fair Districts law, let’s focus on just two: Districts 6 and 8.
Earlier this week I wrote about Districts 6 & 8:
“With a half million residents, Democratic leaning Volusia County has had a resident Senator since before the 1968 Florida Constitution reformed the State Senate. For the past decade the county has been represented by moderate Republican Evelyn Lynn. While the majority of the population in the new District 8 resides in Volusia County, it has been clearly drawn with the intent of taking in Marion County Republicans and possibly being accessible for an Ocala based Republican to run and win in. Volusia has been split strategically in such a way that it could be represented by Republicans from St John’s County and from Marion County in the Senate.”
Today we had a dissenting opinion from two justices citing this very situation as a reason to find the map unconstitutional
“I would find that redrawn District 8 has clearly been drawn with the intent to favor a political party to the detriment of a racial minority community,” Wrote Justice E.C. Perry. (Joined by Justice Quince)
As Perry notes, the drawing of Senate District 8 was done for strategic and highly partisan reasons by the Republican majority. The new District 6 will likely elect a St. Johns or Putnam County-based Republican that represents a point of view that is different than most Volusia residents. The same is very possible in District 8.
District 6 runs up the Atlantic coast all the way to Ponte Vedre Beach, one of the richest and most conservative places in the entire state. District 8 runs all the way to the northern portion of heavily Republican Marion County. The boundary between District 6 and District 8 is right in the middle of the African-American community of Daytona Beach. This community, and the overlapping working class Democratic leaning white areas within Volusia County have been strategically split between the two districts in order to dilute their impact. District 8, with some African-American portions of Ocala and many of the working class Democratic leaning areas south of Daytona Beach, is more likely to elect a Democrat than any district containing St Johns County, so the decision to split the African-American vote here has cost the Democrats a chance to win a seat and diluted the impact of minority voters. Both are out of bounds under the Fair Districts Amendment.
More from Justice Perry’s dissenting opinion:
“I agree with the Coalition‘s assertions that the partisan skew is not the result of a ‘natural packing effect’ of urban Democrats, but of systematic choices by the Legislature to favor the Republican Party,” Perry wrote.
“Additionally, I agree with the NAACP that the redrawn district is detrimental to black voters in Daytona Beach and that that community ―accustomed to being represented by the candidate of its choice, would be stranded in a district in which it most certainly will not be able to elect its candidate of choice or one responsive to its interests and needs.”
The precedent has been set. In the future, political parties can cite the Supreme Court decision of April 27, 2012 as the reason they are splitting minority communities and manipulating district lines for political gain. In hindsight, having sent a clear message and mandate to the State Senate last month, perhaps the Supreme Court did not have the political will nor the stomach for a prolonged fight with entrenched politicians looking after their own self interest.
All logic has been defied with this decision. The court has allowed the will of the voters and the principle of fairness to be tossed out the window and has ushered in a new era of protecting politicians and partisan gerrymandering.