Over the next few months, political junkies and others those who follow such news will be seeing a lot of articles and editorials about the ongoing redistricting fight in Florida. This is a very brief summary of the situation so far.
November, 2010: Florida voters approved two constitutional amendments designed to cure the problem of gerrymandering. Known as the Fair Districts amendments, they dealt with state legislative districts and congressional districts, and they passed by margins of 62.6% and 62.9%, respectively.
January, 2012: After challenging the legality of the amendments in court and losing, the Legislature flat out ignored the will of the people, and adopted new maps that continued the gerrymandering tradition. Those maps were promptly challenged in a lawsuit by the Fair Districts folks, and the process of sorting the matter out in court began.
July, 2014: A Leon County circuit judge issued a ruling that voided the congressional map, citing a “secret, organized campaign” that “made a mockery of the Legislature’s transparent and open process of redistricting.” After a quick special session to fix the problem, the judge allowed the 2014 elections to proceed — but that ruling was appealed.
July 9, 2015: The Florida Supreme Court ruled on the appeal, voting 5-2 in favor of it, and ordered the Legislature to redraw the maps for eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts – which will mean that most, if not all of the 27 districts will have to be redrawn for the 2016 elections. The court gave the Legislature 100 days to accomplish this task, so the Legislature, which does not normally meet in the summer, will have to hold a special session – and indications are that this will take place next month.
(Native’s note: This is true justice, because no place on earth is more miserable in August than Tallahassee. The humidity actually makes the streets steam.)
September 25, 2015: The trial is scheduled to begin in the lawsuit dealing with the state senate districts. Whether the legislators can use the August special session to take care of that, or will have enough sense to do so if they can, is a big question.
Politicians and political advisors all over Florida are playing “what if” as they await the results of the special session. Dozens of already announced candidates and would-be candidates for Congress and the state senate, including incumbents, do not know where the lines of their districts will be, and although candidates do not have to live in a district to run for these offices, it usually helps to know more than a few months in advance which voters one has to target for an election. Nonetheless, all kinds of people — including some from out of state — are jockeying and moving into position to take advantage of the situation.
What makes it so tempting for all these people to run? A lot of elections are decided in primaries, and in Florida, you don’t need a majority to win in a partisan primary with more than one opponent. So a complete bozo with a familiar name or a favorable ballot position can get elected on a fluke.
Bottom line: the 2016 election in Florida will be both crazier and more important than usual. Stay tuned.