Saturday, October 10, 2015

Killing The Florida Gerrymander 10/10/2015: Only Mostly Dead

So, this Friday the judge presiding over the Congressional redistricting to align with the state's Fair Districts amendments gave his final approval on a map.  Via the Tampa Bay Times:

...(Judge Terry) Lewis rejected the Florida Legislature's third attempt at redrawing its congressional districts and recommended a map proposed by the challengers to the Florida Supreme Court for its final review. His ruling adopted the bulk of the map approved by lawmakers in the northern and central portions of the state and reconfigured the three districts in Hillsborough County and split Sarasota County.
The challengers, a coalition of League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals, agreed with the Legislature's configuration of 20 of the 27 districts proposed in a staff-drawn base map but asked the court to adopt their changes to the remaining districts. Lewis agreed.
"The Legislature has thus not met its burden of justifying the proposed versions of Districts 20 through 27," he wrote in a 19-page ruling. He said that a map drawn by the challengers showed no evidence of being drawn with partisan intent and "best complies with the directions" set out by the Florida Supreme Court in July...
...The recommendation will next go to the Florida Supreme Court which must review the maps, including the court testimony and record, and decide what will be the final boundaries for the 2016 election cycle. On Friday, the court gave the parties until Oct. 27 to respond to Lewis' ruling...

Problem with the Times article: does not provide a link to what the map will be, so I gotta go hunt down the map via another source.  Gimme a year.  Searching... searching... have you ever considered the benefits of owning a fine set of encyclopedias?  Searching... ah here we go.  Found a map at the Miami Herald article.

Okay.  Um... hurm.  I'm a little disappointed.

In terms of getting rid of the worst elements of gerrymandering - the long stretchy strings that cover ten counties - this map gets rid of two or three of the more obvious offenders.  Problem is, there's a new stretched-out gerrymander up there on the Florida-Georgia border.  Instead of having the Fifth stretch down to Orlando from Jacksonville it's now stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

We've traded one sin in for another.  Couldn't they have made a compact Fifth District out of that part of Duval County/Jacksonville down towards Alachua?  Something still roughly rectangular and geographically sane?

The benefits to this map is that it resolves some of the odder shapes of the old maps that congealed around South Florida and the I-4 Corridor.  Daytona's district makes sense.  South Pinellas is now all one district, and they put as much of Hillsborough County into one district as they could.  I'm still bothered by that part of the South Florida map - the purple blob to the west end of the population center - where it looks like they've split up spaces between cities rather than keep things compact.

All in all, it's a better map than before... but it still suffers from its own stretching issues.

Does this have something to do with ensuring there are minority-majority districts?  Looks that way, considering how the Fifth District is still a stretched snake.

If anything, this proves that the Constitutional provision to map out districts will create gerrymanders regardless of intent.  Requiring saner map-making alone will not resolve this problem of more effective, more accountable representation.

We need to look at other solutions along with this.

Going to a Proportional system for the House seats may be the only real thing that could fix this.

Otherwise, we may need to increase the number of representatives from the current 435 seats.  Considering we haven't increased that number since 1929 and considering that our nation's population has tripled since then, our need to increase representatives to cover more people would fix gerrymandering by tightening district shapes to mass population (read: Urban and minority) centers, ensuring minority districts while avoiding the geographic sins of stretching out into rural areas that would need their own representation.

In the meantime, this isn't over.  The state's Supreme Court has to give final say on this.  Which is likely, considering 1) the district judge is right in that the Republican-controlled legislature kept failing to abide by the amendments and 2) we're running out of time if anybody wants these maps usable for 2016.

In the meantime, for the LOVE OF GOD STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN.  Thank you.


dinthebeast said...

Do they have a ballot initiative process in Florida? That's how we got our Citizens Commission who draw our districts, that seems to be working fairly well. It's also how we got props 8 and 187, so I'm not advocating it without reservation. If you have an easily aroused voting bloc of crazy people, as we do here, it might not be that great of an idea...

-Doug in Oakland

Paul said...

We have ballot initiatives here in Florida. the Gerrymander-Must-Die Fair Districts amendments were both public initiatives - the state lege tried to kill them and then tried to pass their own poison pill version to supplant them - and both passed with respectable percentages.

Not every state has the referendum/initiative system, but enough do, and a lot of them need to pass similar gerrymander-killing amendments.