Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Manageable standard

In 2012 Obama won Florida by less than one percent. Yet 63% of Florida's congressional seats went to the GOP. The reason is familiar – the same thing happened in Michigan and several other states. That reason is gerrymandering. The issue was taken to court with plaintiffs (alas, not identified) saying 9 of 27 districts violate the state constitution, specifically an amendment added in 2010 (how'd that happen?) to require districts not favor one political party over another.

Last week a Florida trial judge ruled that two of the districts violated the state constitution. Those districts, and any close enough to be affected, must be redrawn. There was lots of evidence (shown clearly in maps and testimony) that what should have been two GOP and two Dem districts came out as four GOP districts.

So far the Supremes have avoided cases involving political gerrymandering. They say they can't identify a “manageable standard” which, I think, means coming up with a definition of gerrymandering in such a way that other judges can study maps and say, “This is gerrymandering, that isn't.”

But this judge managed to come up with such a definition. So this victory is also a proof of concept. And likely be replicated across the country, even if the Supremes don't step in. Michigan, are you paying attention?

I'm surprised that GOP leaders in the Florida legislature have decided to not appeal the ruling. However, they did say that since we're so close to the primary election can we please keep the current map through November?

The GOP is able to violate the state constitution and still get one, maybe two, elections with its gerrymandered advantages. Unless courts move faster the GOP still has an incentive to create gerrymandered districts.

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