Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gerrymander And The Contempt of the Florida Legislature

Previously on Gerrymandering Florida, the judge that ruled against the state legislature's blatant partisan district-making for the federal congressional seats ordered that legislature to hold a special session and redraw the affected districts to adhere to the state's Fair Districts amendments.  Said maps were being redrawn for use this year's midterms, which could mean a delay in the affected districts (and perhaps the whole state's primary and general elections).

There wasn't much expected out of this court order, though.  Personally, I had little hope that the state legislature - ruled by Republicans - would play by the rules and draw districts that were compact and based not on registered voters/ethnic makeup but on population density.  After all, these were the same jokers who drew the 5th Congressional District as this long snake-like gerrymander in the first place: they wanted to shove as many Democrats into that one district so they could craft six surrounding districts to favor Republicans.

So, to no surprise at all, the legislature presented to the judge their revised district maps.  Which is: they didn't change much of anything! (via Talking Points Memo)
...But the new maps look quite like the old ones, especially the boundaries of the snakelike District 5, one of the most gerrymandered seats in the country. In his ruling earlier this summer, Federal Judge Terry P. Lewis said District 5 “does not follow traditional political boundaries” and “connects two far flung urban populations” without legal justification. His opinion chided lawmakers, saying districts containing “finger-like extensions, narrow and bizarrely shaped tentacles, and hook like shapes…are constitutionally suspect and often indicative of racial and partisan gerrymandering...”
The revised districts still carve out a snaking thin 5th District between Jacksonville, half of Gainesville (the eastern half where most Blacks and college students live) down to the northern half of the Orlando metro.  The new map does nothing about those "finger-like extensions" that exist among most of the districts, clear efforts by the party in charge to carve out favorable "safe" districts rather than allow communities, cities and counties to speak with one unified voice.

To which I say: can Judge Lewis hold the entire Republican contingency sitting in the Florida legislature with contempt of court?  At least that redistricting committee?

The powers-that-be in the state legislature were given instructions, and a clear understanding from the judge that he was expecting a cleaner, rule-abiding map.  They refused: they intentionally made minor tweaks and are basically daring Lewis to accept what they're offering.

Judge Lewis shouldn't accept it.  He should hold them accountable: for violating the state constitution, for violating their oath of office, for displaying this level of open contempt for his court rulings.

If he's empowered to do so, Lewis should get an independent map-maker on this, get another redistricting map drawn up for Florida's congressional districts and set that map for use.  If not, if he's forced to require the state legislature to make the redistricting map, then he ought to make certain those bastards play by the rules and make a congressional district map that's compact, centered out evenly to our population centers, and unbiased to party alignment.

The state legislature's argument that they have to make the 5th District a "minority" district to abide by the Voting Rights Act requirements for minority representation doesn't make sense when you consider most urban communities are minority, and already effective areas to create such districts in the first place.  The bloggers over at Addicting Info went and did their own redistricting maps, and found that by following the compactness rule and population density without any other bias they could create six congressional districts with heavy minority (Black and/or Hispanic) voting blocs.  We still end up with evenly mapped out districts, not ones that are snaking over six different counties and splitting cities and communities.
This is what Addicting Info's compact and fair districts map looks like.  See anything?  Yeah.  NO GERRYMANDERS.

What the Republicans in the Lege are trying to do is carve out controlled, party-friendly districts, which violates the core values of our electoral process.  It also violates the whole idea behind the Fair District Amendments to make compact, community-focused districts.

The state legislature is pretty much breaking the law right now.

That's the sort of thing that's supposed to involve criminal charges, jail time, fines, something, ANYTHING to uphold the laws of the land.

To Judge Lewis, I urge you to hold the irresponsible leadership of the state Republican-controlled legislature in contempt of your court.

And I urge voters, in spite of our gerrymandered districts, to get up and GET OUT THE DAMN VOTE and to vote the Republicans OUT OF THE STATE LEGISLATURE.  Just DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN, people.  PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD...

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