Friday, February 13, 2009

Florida Redistricting Petitions

Two Florida constitutional amendment petitions that would restrict gerrymandering are gathering signatures until October 2009. One for congress; the other for the legislature. They need 676,811 signatures to get on the November 2010 ballot. If successful this would result in a significant redrawing of the districts in 2011. Florida will likely get 1 additional congressional seat, too. is sponsoring the amendments. The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled against those attempting to block the petitions. As I wrote in my previous post, Florida is one of the few large states where the distribution of seats between Dems and Reps is more than 1 seat away from what we might expect. Look at the district maps to see how seriously gerrymandered they are. So, Floridians, sign the petitions, collect signatures, do what you can. And if you know anyone in Florida...this is a great step in the right direction. has great maps of the congressional districts. Here's the PDF for Florida (800KB), which you can pan and zoom. Some of the districts are incredible (check out FL-16 (the Foley-Mahoney-Rooney district) or FL-23 (which Alcee Hastings (D) won with 82%)). So what would the constitutional amendment regarding congressional districts do? The ballot summary is
Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.
And the main text is actually short and very readable.
(1) No apportionment plan or individual district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate In the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice; and districts shall consist of contiguous territory. (2) Unless compliance with the standards in this subsection conflicts with the standards in subsection (1) or with federal law, districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable; districts shall be compact; and districts shall, where feasible, utilize existing political and geographical boundaries.
A key point here is that the legislature is still responsible for producing a plan; no commision. But they will be much more constrained than before. From my perspective, there is still a lot of flexibility and therefore opportunity for the legislators to play favorites. However, there will be a lot less opportunity than there is today. If this passes and passes any legal challenges, I'm sure we'll see challenges to whatever plan the legislature comes up with in 2011.