Thursday, June 26, 2014

Meanwhile in Florida, Another Gripe About Gerrymanders

(update: hello to the readers visiting via Crooks and Liars.)
I mentioned on my last post I had several things worth blogging, and this was one: a follow-up of sorts from the Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano about the gerrymander trial and a realization he made about how screwed up our electioneering is:

...Nearly one-third of the candidates for 140 Senate and House seats are running unopposed. You think that sounds bad? Pffft, that just scratches the surface.
Dozens of other races offer only the appearance of competition with write-in, third-party and no-party affiliated candidates on board. No disrespect intended to those folks, but it has been decades since anyone booked passage to Tallahassee via that route.
All of which brings us to the bottom line:
There are a grand total of 57 races out of 140 that include both a Republican and a Democrat. Fifty-stinking-seven!
That means nearly 60 percent of the legislative races in November are slam dunks. And only a handful of the other 40 percent will actually turn out to be competitive.
In other words, your American Idol vote will probably carry more weight...

This is what gerrymandering does in the pursuit of creating "safe" districts. Enough of these districts are so skewed to favor one party that the opposing major party doesn't even want to waste the resources to challenge the incumbent that's usually sitting in said district.

More from Romano:

The maps are drawn to have predetermined outcomes in elections. Republicans have given themselves enough safe districts to ensure they will remain in power, and they have given Democrats just enough safe districts to keep them from complaining.
So who loses?
Instead of getting multiple choices of candidates who have a legitimate chance to win, you are stuck with take-it-or-leave-it elections.
The bigger problem is you have already made it clear you were tired of this sham. Florida voters overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments that forbid the Legislature from just this kind of district stacking when maps were redrawn for 2012.
And yet the problem is only getting worse.
In 2010, the last election under the old maps, 51.7 percent of the races failed to field both a Republican and a Democrat. In 2012, the first year of new maps, that percentage rose to 54.3. Right now, barring anyone dropping out, it's 59.2 percent.
So that means the legislative leaders who were specifically instructed to redraw maps to make them more competitive may have actually made them more lopsided.
Which is easy to believe if you listened to the testimony of deleted emails, consultants being invited to the table and a phantom map falsely submitted under a student's name...

Just on those points alone, the judge overseeing this case ought to dump the GOP's redistricting maps (and for good measure hold each of the con artists responsible for it for contempt).

Romano notes how the general electorate has grown disgusted by the gerrymandering, about how state amendments forcing better redistricting were passed in popular referendum, but that's not the only emotion these gerrymandered maps create.

These maps also create disillusionment and disinterest.  When voters tend to get confronted with elections that have no consequences or value, when voters are pretty much told they have no choices for them to make, they tune out and refuse to show up.  Voter turnout for these mid-term elections - where nothing is at stake in 60 percent of the districts - is hideous, barely topping out over 39 percent and sometimes barely getting over a quarter of all registered voters (when real competitive races take place like the Presidential ones, voter turnout at least breaks over the 55-60 percent mark).

At best 39 percent turnout, people.  That's not a majority of registered voters.  That's not enough residents in this state electing people to office who have the power to dictate business regulations, quality of schools, quality of the local roads and bridges, our environment, any kind of local or national jobs bills that could stimulate the local/national economy... and so on.

We're not ruled by majority vote, we're ruled by the extremists who are the only ones who care enough to vote no matter what.  And those extremists - especially the ones on the Republican side - don't care if government works or not, they just want their special interests protected at all hazards...

This is what gerrymandering creates: lack of honest-to-God representation of the majority's best interests.  It creates disgust in the entire political process.

Gerrymandering has to go if we have any hope of making government at the local, state, and federal levels work again.

That judge better rule against these maps and make certain honest, competitive maps get installed right quick.


Phoenix Justice said...

Might I recommend an "Independent Redistricting Commission" much like Arizona has? It isn't perfect, but its pretty damn close.

Paul Wartenberg said...

I'd seen talk about it, but it would either require another referendum for a state amendment (currently don't see one for this midterm) or the state legislature (which will be loathe to do it) passing laws for creating that commission. Right now, we're waiting to see if the existing amendments that force the redistricting process to be based both on population density and compact / contiguous districts (aka no snake-shaped mutated districts) will survive this court case.

Paul Wartenberg said...

The way we'll know the districts are being fairly drawn? When we finally get a state legislative district where the NPA voters outnumber the Democrats and the Republicans. :)