Friday, March 24, 2006

Florida Supreme Court Kicks Redistricting Measure Off the Ballot

As Gary Fineout and Mark Caputo report in the Miami Herald, the Florida Supreme Court threw a redistricting measure off the ballot because it violated the state's single-subject rule for ballot measures and because its description as "nonpartisan" misled voters.

The Florida redistricting initiative was just one part of the recent national debate over redistricting, spurred in no small part by the Tom DeLay-led mid-decade Texas redistricting effort in 2002, but also by increases in technology which have allowed one or both of the two main political parties to turn gerrymandering into an art form in the various states.

In California, the increasing general demographic trend for like-minded voters to live near each other was exacerbated by the districts drawn in 2001 by the state legislature, with the blessing of both parties. In 2004, none of the 133 Assembly and Congressional seats drawn under the 2001 plan switched parties. This bipartisan gerrymander benefited the parties and the apparatchiks favored by the party higher-ups.

Ohio saw a different kind of gerrymander. In that state, Republicans drew districts to maximize the number of Republicans in the state legislature and Congress. (See our report on Ohio here.)

Both forms of gerrymander lessen voter involvement in the selection and election of candidates; both make democracy markedly less representative. Both Ohio and California saw redistricting reform measures on the ballot last year, both of which failed after intense opposition campaigns run and bankrolled by incumbents.

The Florida Supreme Court's decision means that in yet another state, voters will be pushed into districts that likely represent the interests of those drawing the districts rather than citizens, and that voter choice at the ballot will not have the significance which it should.

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