Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Florida Redistricting Initiatives

As Mary Ellen Klas reports in The Miami Herald, an effort is underway in Florida to change the way the state's legislative and congressional districts are drawn. Three initiatives would amend the state constitution to create an independent redistricting commission, create standards to keep communities together, and to require that districts be redrawn in 2008.

The state Legislature currently draws its own districts, allowing legislators to tailor custom-designed districts for themselves to avoid the slightest whiff of competition come election time. If a legislator needs to contort their district to exclude an unfavorable demographic or include a favorable demographic, no problem - they just erase those little lines on the map that denote city or county borders, and draw in the lines that benefit themselves. Brilliant! Just imagine if drunk drivers could do the same thing with highway lines. --Surry, offisher, if you look at this map, I was clurrly driving in my lane. Hiccup.

The Florida Legislature's most recent work at the district-drawing table resulted in districts so skewed that of the 142 legislative districts in the state, 103 - 72% - were uncontested by one the two major parties. It ain't democracy if you got no choice. But that's exactly what the politicians in both parties want - power checked as little as possible by the opinions and votes of the people the pols are supposed to represent.

And it's not about principle. In March, Florida Governor Jeb Bush helped raise money for California Governor Schwarzenegger's efforts to take California's redistricting process away from the state legislature, even though Bush opposes the same effort in his own state. Principle? Ha!

Nor is this phenomenon limited to one party or the other. In California, where the Democrats rule the roost and are responsible for drawing districts, none of the state's legislative or congressional districts changed party hands in 2004. In Ohio, where the Republicans run the show and draw the districts, only five of ninety-nine seats in the Ohio House changed hands in 2004; none of the state's eighteen congressional seats did.

Politicians cannot be trusted to draw fair districts, that much is clear. When pols are in charge, they create a political monopoly for themselves, destroying accountability to their constituents and eroding the foundations of representative democracy.

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