Floirida, a state in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by 800,000 or so, now has a grand total of 6 Democratic House members. 6. Out of 25. We lost heroes like Alan Grayson and replaced them with these guys.
The GOP went from majority status to super majority veto-proof status in the Legislature, and they swept the cabinet, taking Governor, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner, and CFO.
But there is one bright spot for Florida Democrats: the Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6both passed with over 60 percent of the vote, enshrining into our constitution simple, solid, enforceable rules for redistricting that could reshape the political landscape in the state for, well, at least a decade!
The amendments seek to tie the legislature’s hands by defining how districts can be drawn:
BALLOT SUMMARY: Legislative districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.
One big reason Alan Grayson lost is that he was running in a district gerrymandered to keep a Republican in the seat. Grayson was competing on a tilted playing field. He was literally fighting an uphill battle to retain his gerrymandered seat in a majority Republican district.
We’ve got weirdly drawn districts like Grayson’s all over Florida. A few are safe Democrat districts - drawn with the collusion of the minority party to segregate Democratic voters. Safe Democratic incumbents like this setup. Too bad. They’re gonna have to compete fairly just like everyone else now.
Here’s the Brennan Center on how redistricting works in Florida:
Congressional and state legislative districts are currently drawn by the state legislature. State legislative districts are drawn by joint resolution, and not subject to gubernatorial veto; congressional districts are passed as standard legislation (and therefore subject to veto)
The legislature is allowed to draw its own districts without interference from the Governor - it’s a separation of powers thing. The Governor has veto power over federal congressional districts, but since we just elected a Republican Governor to match our Super Majority Veto-Proof Republican Legislature, the veto is not really a factor.
Anyway, the Fair Districts Amendments will force the Legislature to draw fair districts that encompass natural and pre-exisitng communities. Legislators will no longer be able to use sophisticated computer modeling to game the system by literally drawing district lines around individual houses or connecting completely unconnected areas with thin little slivers of district.
The Republican Super Majority Legislature really really hates Fair Districts. They will do everything they can to avoid playing by these rules. Expect delay after delay as they craft a strategy to overturn Fair Districts and avoid following the state constitution.
They can and will pass unconstitutionally gerrymandered redistricting that will have to be fought in court. This will delay and give them time to craft and promote an amendment to do away with Fair Districts - they can even call a special election just to decide their unFair Districts amendment.
They can do all of this and more, but Fair Districts is now a part of the Florida constitution. It is in the document. It’s not a law that can be overturned by the courts or legislated away. When the Leg presents to the voters an amendment to nullify Fair Districts, the Leg’s fix, like all amendments in Florida, will require 60 percent to pass.
This is a fight we can and must win.
Florida will be gaining two seats in this round of redistricting. With Fair Districts enshrined in the constitution, we have a really good chance of forcing the Leg to draw boundaries that make sense. This will level the playing field, resulting in many more competitive districts and, hopefully, more Democrats from Florida in Congress.
But the fight is just beginning. Watch out for the first obstructionist and destructionist moves from the Leg coming soon. In the meantime, gird for a tough fight - one in which we will ultimately prevail.