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Ouch.

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.

Originally posted to BlogWood on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:11 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (24+ / 0-)

    Damn straight I'm Union. I climb poles and fix cable to unclog the tubes that bring you the internets. You're Welcome.

    by norwood on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:11:12 AM PDT

  •  demographics & time on our side (5+ / 0-)

    Demographics and time are on our side. Climate and energy are not. This is good ... but agonizing all at the same time.

    •  Climate and energy (4+ / 0-)

      Our dominant GOP Leg is already trying to kill high speed rail (federally funded), open up coasts to drilling, and deregulate industries that are already pretty much self regulating.

      Solar, in the Sunshine State, is not on the radar.

      Damn straight I'm Union. I climb poles and fix cable to unclog the tubes that bring you the internets. You're Welcome.

      by norwood on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:25:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What's left (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        norwood, Rosita

        of this state's natural beauty will be developed or destroyed and the people who preside over it will retire in western North Carolina or Napa Valley where they don't have to live with the consequences.  Nothing new there.

        A terrible beauty is born. --W.B. Yeats

        by eightlivesleft on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:45:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is a great victory (6+ / 0-)

    In Florida, the GOP absolutely dominates the State House and the State Senate as well as the Congressional Delegation (even before picking up four seats from us this election).  Given how competitive the state is at the statewide level, the Republican gerrymander is ridiculous.  Hopefully by having fair drawing of seats, we will gain numerous Congressional seats.  

    Even though redistricting reform in California passed and we won't be able to maximize the number of Democrats in the California House delegation, the current map favors incumbency, not Democrats.  By having more fairly drawn districts, we might very well be able to gain some seats there as well.  

  •  Good diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood, neroden, DruidQueen

    Substantive, informative and weel written.

    Money=speech; every dollar has a right to be heard. The Supremes

    by orson on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:27:48 AM PDT

  •  Absolutely (5+ / 0-)

    I know that I donated a considerable amount to the Fair Districts campaign, and even had a few diaries here about it asking for support. It might well be the most important ballot initiative we've had here in the state. If the courts follow through, it will help restore some semblance of balance and better representation to Florida, which has always been one of the worst gerrymandered state under both democrats and republicans.

    Do Pavlov's dogs chase Schroedinger's cat?

    by corwin on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:35:00 AM PDT

  •  Brown (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood, eightlivesleft, Neon Mama

    Of course, a Dem Congresswoman is one of the two who are taking this to court.  Corrine Brown of FL-03.

    Currently Top Ten in Slate's Lean/Lock game!

    by greatdarkspot on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:38:57 AM PDT

    •  Posted this below by mistake (6+ / 0-)

      I meant to reply to your comment:

      She's been safely ensconced in a gerrymandered seat for years. It's time for her to have a fair race.

      Oh, and the fact that she temed with Mario Diaz-Balart to fight Fair Districts pretty much says all that needs to be said about her.

      They just filed suit to overturn these amendments - more on that in another diary!

      Damn straight I'm Union. I climb poles and fix cable to unclog the tubes that bring you the internets. You're Welcome.

      by norwood on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:49:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •   I like Corinne Brown (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      norwood, greatdarkspot

      But she is as wrong as two left shoes on this one. She and Mario (my new representative -- ugh!) can take a hike.

    •  Yeah (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      norwood, greatdarkspot

      She's a black Congresswoman whose district has been gerrymandered to include mostly black voters. Her district spans from parts of Orlando to parts of Jacksonville (which is three hours away by car, wtf?).

      Corrine Brown has had it easy so that Republicans can make black voters shut up and not whine, while they sweep the rest of the state for ReThugs, and folks like Alan Grayson don't have much of a chance of competing in such an environment.

      Utterly ridiculous. I'm okay with sacrificing her if it means we have a chance of seeing fair districting because as it is now, things are really really stupid. But of course SHE is going to fight it because her guaranteed job is suddenly not so guaranteed anymore.

  •  The election here (7+ / 0-)

    was a disaster on almost every possible level, but the social fabric is coming apart and we'd elect a criminal (as a matter of fact, we did!) if he or she only promised to create jobs. After debating this, I even voted for Meek over Crist, because it was clear that Rubio would win and I at least wanted to feel good about who I voted for.

    Of all the candidates and issues I voted for on my ballot, the redistricting items were some of the only things that won.  I appreciate your long-term optimism, but in the short-term this state is going to be as radically conservative as any in the country.

    A terrible beauty is born. --W.B. Yeats

    by eightlivesleft on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:42:58 AM PDT

  •  This Is Critical (4+ / 0-)

    I am so glad we here in Florida voted for these amendments.  It is now the only check on keeping republicans making themselves permanently in power in Tallahasee and in the states congressional delegation.

    With a fair map Democrats will at least have a fair chance to win more seats especially if we get a good Democratic voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election.

  •  Wow. I'm glad we have "independent" districting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood

    here in AZ. I can only imagine what our districts would look like if we went the Florida route!! No Grijalva, no Pastor, and DEFINITELY no Giffords.

    Good policy is good politics

    by AZ Independent on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:43:36 AM PDT

  •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allenjo

    She's been safely ensconced in a gerrymandered seat for years. It's time for her to have a fair race.

    Oh, and the fact that she temed with Mario Diaz-Balart to fight Fair Districts pretty much says all that needs to be said about her.

    They just filed suit to overturn these amendments - more on that in another diary!

    Damn straight I'm Union. I climb poles and fix cable to unclog the tubes that bring you the internets. You're Welcome.

    by norwood on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:47:16 AM PDT

  •  It was a rough night (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood, allenjo, DruidQueen

    that was the only bright spot.

  •  Excellent to hear, but... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood

    ...the question is, who gets to define a "reasonable" interpretation of the districts?

    Florida is expected to go from 25 to 27 House seats. It's population is around 18.6 million, or around 690,000 people per district.

    To me, it seems obvious: You start with a grid of the entire state broken into, say, 1 KM squares, and count how many people live in each square.

    Start at the top-left corner of the Panhandle with Grid 1 and tally up how many people live there. Move across to Grid 2 and add them, and so on. Once you hit 690,000 people, stop (splitting the grid if necessary to make it closer).

    Then start with the second district, and so on.

    Actually, this would probably make all of the districts long horizontal rectangles, but whatever.

    •  A lot is spelled out (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brainwrap, Neon Mama

      The amendments force contiguous districts of equal population constrained by existing geographical and political boundaries. This is a pretty good starting point, but we will doubtlessly end up in court.

      Actually, we're already in court.  More on that in another diary!

      Damn straight I'm Union. I climb poles and fix cable to unclog the tubes that bring you the internets. You're Welcome.

      by norwood on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:16:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The good news and bad news (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood, Neon Mama

    The good news is, its hard to get a constitutional amendment here in Florida because of the 60% threshold.  So although the wingnuts will try to have this overturned by another voter referendum that would be a tall order.

    The bad news is, the constitutional amendment as written could be overturned by the Florida supremes, and at the very least will probably start a 10 year leagal battle.

    Still, its a sweet victory.  I live in Tampa.  Even though our state voted overwhelmingly for tea-baggers and the like, we passed this handily.  It gives hope that at least 62% (or whatever it was) of voters will at least try to do the right thing sometimes.

  •  Classroom size still must stay small despite (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood

    the stingy jerks trying to bully us into changing our last vote on it.

    And yet another brite spot was failure of initiative to kill public campaign financing if you agree to spending limits. Poor folk can still run -- even if it is uphill.

    In Pasco County, candidates were all on front side.
    Initiatives were all on backside.  I'm wondering if good amendments won because dummies failed to turn ballot over and cancel out our votes for better government?

    Can't yet find any published numbers on undervotes and doubt that all counties' ballots were laid out alike. Just curious.

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:46:30 AM PDT

  •  I agree with "compact" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    norwood

    but does the amendment define how that criterion is evaluated?

    An even better reform would be to do away with districts and go to proportional representation.

    Knowledge is a responsibility. Therefore, ignorance is not a right.

    by rmoore on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 11:18:53 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the good summary (0+ / 0-)

    of our dismal results in FL. I'm thinking of wounds from 2008 and my temper may be rising again. Big problem then was lack of support from our two Dems in Congress, Debbie Wasserman Shultz (FL-20) and Kendrick Meek (FL-17, now defeated for US Senate), for three strong Democrats who were running for Districts 18, 21 and 25. Is this why we only had one strong challenger for those seats this year? Joe Garcia made his second run for FL25 and the Republicans could rain all their money on defeating him without worrying about Districts 18 and 21. He was well supported by the national Democratic Party machinery but ended up with 42.6 percent of the vote, about 6 points less than in 2008.

    Whatever the reason, Florida Democrats must ask themselves why it is so hard to get good candidates. What if the supposedly invulnerable Republican incumbent is indicted? Falls under a bus? A Tea Party clown wins the primary? We must put up credible challengers everywhere. It's like the 50-state strategy. It will pay off.

    I've got a headful of ideas that are driving me insane. -- Bob Dylan, "Maggie's Farm"

    by Larry Thorson on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 12:23:26 PM PDT

    •  Here in Hillsborough County (0+ / 0-)

      Well,  just read this and try not to cry.

      There was no Democrat in the race, and Hillsborough Democratic leaders have yet to comment about the party's lack of a candidate. Reached in Tallahassee, state Democratic spokesman Eric Jotkoff declined to comment Wednesday.

      More than 60,000 folks declined to vote for Jim Norman, but they had no credible alternative.

      Damn straight I'm Union. I climb poles and fix cable to unclog the tubes that bring you the internets. You're Welcome.

      by norwood on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 08:28:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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