The only silver lining Florida Democrats found in the election results of 2010, with Republicans sweeping all of the statewide elections while expanding their majorities in the Legislature, was the passage of Amendments 5 & 6, the so-called Fair Districts amendments.
Many Democrats believed the changes brought about by the Fair Districts amendments would weaken the state’s entrenched GOP majority, while Republicans argued that their successes have been based on ideology not partisan districts.
After the Florida Supreme Court signed off on a revised map of the state’s Senate districts, there is only one conclusion to be drawn from the redistricting process.
Florida’s Democrats are the Chicago Cubs of state politics.
Just as every Cubs fan streaming out of Wrigley Field after the last game of the season proclaims ‘Wait ’til next year’, so must Florida’s Democrats hold out hope ’til the next election or, in the latest instance, the next redistricing – in 2022!
But first, let’s look at this latest defeat snapped from the jaws of victory.
This was the year, Democrats said. This was the year!
The passage of Amendments 5 & 6, like a baseball’s team signing of a high-priced free agent, was suppose to be the cureall for all that was wrong with the state’s Congressional and Legislative election.
“If enacted, (the initiatives) would dramatically improve the redistricting process in Florida and make Florida’s elections fairer for all political parties and candidates,” wrote attorneys Paul M. Smith and Michael B. DeSanctis. “They would also protect, and indeed enhance, the ability of minorities to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice.”
In reality, implementing Fair Districts could only do so much.
In 2010, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Michigan made it clear in a comprehensive study of where Florida voters live that ran thousands of complex simulations of elections in computer-drawn contiguous and compact districts that, if the new maps were drawn in a manner fitting with the standards of Amendments 5 & 6, Republicans would still win 59 percent of all the districts.
But Democrats would not be discouraged.
Just like the Chicago Cubs in Spring Training. So what if their new pitcher can’t last more than four innings! Who cares if their clean-up hitter can’t read a curve ball.
The Democrats were outgunned and outplayed in every facet of the redistricting game. With such small numbers in the Florida House and Senate, that’s almost to be expected.
But the Democrats thought they had the advantage once the redistricting process moved to the courts.
Unfortunately for the Dems, House Redistricting Chair Will Weatherford and his team played it straight and were met with no opposition from the Florida Supreme Court. Weatherford simply threw fastballs at the Democrats and dared them to swing.
The Democrats fared better with the map of the Senate districts, but the issues the Supreme Court had little to do with Democrat vs. Republican. On the second go-around, the Senate nipped and tucked and the Court, beset with its own political considerations and issues, rolled over.
Oh sure, at least one justice, Barbara Pariente, believes that some of the issues Democrats brought forward were deserving of a closer look, “with an eye toward assuring that the will of the voters can be fully realized.”
Pariente suggested that “the Legislature in the next session and the Constitutional Revision Commission when it meets in 2018 to study the process” (pay) particular attention to these concerns.”
After the Supreme Court released it’s opinion, the Florida Democratic Party offered this statement:
“Florida Democrats led an unprecedented legal effort to hold the GOP legislature accountable to the will of Florida voters. Our efforts resulted in the historic rejection of the first map proposed by the Senate. While today’s ruling raises serious concerns, we will continue our efforts to hold this Republican-led legislature accountable to the will of the people – something they have consistently ignored throughout this process.”
In other words, wait ’til next year!