Undoing redistricting in Tallahassee
Leon County circuit judge calls legislature to task for unfair districts
Published: July 16, 2014
“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion … without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
– George Washington,
as quoted by Judge Terry Lewis in Florida’s redistricting case
JUST THE STATS
Approximate amount of taxpayer dollars that the state spent defending the Florida Legislature’s redrawing of the Congressional district boundaries that were, as of last week, ruled unconstitutional by a circuit court judge
Percentage of voters who cast ballots in favor of the Fair Districts amendment in 2010, which was intended to bring transparency to the partisan process of redistricting
Number of public hearings scheduled across the state in 2011 in order to engage the public in the redistricting process
To kill a mockery
Like a perpetual nag that gets its rocks off by bludgeoning anyone within reading distance with the sweet wonk of winking political theater, this column has been screaming into the darkness about the first-grade Republican art kit known as redistricting since, oh, 2010. That was, dear readers, the year of the Census. It was also the year of our Lord in which voters – with the help of savvy “we’re not going to take it anymore” groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida – voted for Fair Districts, which said legislators had to play fair with the decennial craft of political puzzle-making, aka redistricting. In other words, don’t draw the Congressional and legislative districts to favor your damn selves, Republicans.
So like any scolded elementary school class pressed into an un-air-conditioned school bus against its will (and with no bathroom or Dairy Queen stops to look forward to), legislators heaved their heft around the state three summers ago to 26 “hearings” that weren’t so much hearings as punitive engagements for everyone involved. So boring were these meetings that (now-disgraced) state Rep. Chris Dorworth got clocked fingering the Facebook on his iPad (even friending us!) instead of paying attention. The nerve!
We were there tailgating for the Orlando stop of the tour of the century (or decade) and found ourselves leaving before the “Freebird” encore, because not one person on that stage cared about what anyone in the room was saying. (“Bunny rabbit,” “dead dog,” “toilet” and “crab” were all used as terms to describe various districts’ shapes, hilariously.) Also, House Speaker (to our sloppy heart) Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, refused to remove his shirt, even though we were really hoping he might.
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