Saturday, August 22, 2015

Florida Problem #1589, also known as "Florida Gerrymandering And the Legislature Is Effed Up" Edition

I was just chatting about this on Monday, when news kept creeping out of Tallahassee - that's the state capital for all you 5th graders out there needing to learn these things for the new school year - about how the two branches of the state legislature were at odds over gerrymanders.

Remember, the state court basically ordered the government to redraw most of the map for the Congressional districts - and also the state Senate, it seems - so that the map would conform to the voter-approved state amendments enforcing fair districts.  The courts insisted on certain deadlines, with the first week of September the goal but with the legislature needing to get something confirmed by this weekend.

Well, given the track record of this current session - how the House literally quit on itself, how the Senate and House are at odds over every little detail now, how half the elected officials seem to either not know or not CARE about how things work - don't be surprised at the results (from the Tampa Bay Times):

A special legislative session to fix Florida's flawed congressional district lines ended in chaos Friday as senators staged a walkout and the House rejected Senate requests to extend the session into a third week.
Lawmakers ended the session on time but with no agreement on a new map. As a result, legislators have turned over the job of redrawing the 27 districts to a trial judge, who can choose a House or Senate map, solicit other options or create his own to comply with a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering lawmakers to fix eight districts that it said were illegally gerrymandered.
"That should make everybody nervous," said Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando...

You would think that the Republicans in charge of both houses of the lege would have known that.  That it was in their best interests to actually come up with SOMETHING the court judge would accept as a good-faith effort.

At the Congressional level, the state Republicans had drawn out a map that favored their party with 17 "safe" districts - with +1 to +5 favor in registered voters - to 10 districts drawn to favor Democrats.  Considering how Democrats outnumber Republicans as voters in a 38-to-33-to-25 (the 25 percent is Indy voters) percentages, that 60-to-40 skew was viciously unfair.  The Republicans could have STILL drawn up a map that cleared out the obvious gerrymanders like the snake-shaped 5th District (heavily Dem by the way) and still given themselves at least a 14-to-13 advantage, but noooooooo apparently they wanted as much of it as mathematically possible and to hell with any trade-aways.

It's the sheer open INCOMPETENCE that ought to be troubling everybody, as Times' columnist John Romano points out:

...After all, this is a state that single-handedly held up a presidential election in 2000. It bungled the 1876 presidential election, too. For crying out loud, this is a state that elected Rick Scott as governor. Twice!
Considering such an inglorious history, how could 2015 possibly be in the running as the worst of the bunch?
Simple. It is the consistent stupidity. The relentless undermining and backstabbing. It is the utter dedication to self-interest in the guise of public service.
Truly, it has been a remarkable eight-month run in Tallahassee. Scandal followed by embarrassment followed by ineptness. And all of it without a hint of shame or remorse...

Romano points to the fiasco of Rick "No Ethics" Scott violating state ethics by forcing the chief of the state's law enforcement office out over refusing to persecute people for a political agenda, and then highlighted how our state's legislature couldn't settle their budget issues on time in April and literally quit on the state.

...The state House followed by ending the legislative session early — technically, another constitutional no-no — because it refused to accept billions of dollars in federal money so poverty-level residents could buy private health insurance.
That required spending additional tax dollars on a special session to agree on a budget that included even more state spending to make up for the federal money we refused.
As if one special session weren't enough, the state Supreme Court sent legislators back to Tallahassee this month to redraw congressional maps that had been influenced by political consultants in violation of the Constitution. Noticing a trend here?

HEY! WHOA! That "notice a trend" shtick is MY deal, Romano, go get your own!

These acts are outrageous failures of growing consistency out of our legislature.  In the 38 years I've lived in this state, of the years since my high school years where I was aware of what the state government did, I have never witnessed such gridlock and failure to perform out of our state capital.

The insane part is that two of the three major branches of our state - the governor's office, both houses of legislature - are all part of the same political party.  You would think the Republicans would have their sh-t together and stay on the same page or at least work out a deal among their own ranks.  I mean, that's part of their identity: DEMOCRATS are this disorganized for God's sake (and yet are still able to work among themselves, go figure).

This Republican Party in Florida can't even get themselves coordinated over drawing up a district electoral map that could at least pass the court judge's bullsh-t detector.  Either the entire game-plan of gerrymandering is that far out of bounds of legality that there was no advantage to the GOP - that any map variations they drew up for districts pretty much gave Democrats a majority of districts - or else the Republican legislators didn't even care anymore and are daring the courts to come up with their own maps.

Which I hope to God the court judges do.

There are computer programs out there that can generate population maps, and some of them can be easily configured for voter placement and population density.  As long as the districts follow the other rules of compactness, conforming to geographic boundaries (water lines) and city/county lines as best as possible, and near closeness of population (within margin of error), a computer map can get charted and printed out within hours.  Addicting Info website even used a system by computer engineer Brian Olsen to draw up this map:

Which looks like it respects the population density of Florida's cities and counties without creating districts that lollygag their way across half the state.  The court judge can easily choose that map and bada-bing bada-boom we've got ourselves a 2016 Congressional election worth paying attention to.

And we shouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on a group of "elected" officials who won't do their f-cking jobs.

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