Political hacks stand to gain from Florida gerrymander fix
The two districts in question are currently held by U.S. Reps. Dan Webster, a Republican from Winter Garden, and Corrine Brown, a Democrat from Jacksonville. Lawmakers are set to convene in Tallahassee tomorrow, where a committee will be appointed to redraw the maps over the weekend. The rest of the Legislature will reconvene sometime next week to vote on their final passage.
Although state legislative leaders have acquiesced to redraw the maps per the judge’s order, they intend for the newly drawn districts to take effect in 2016, as it is logistically too late for them to apply before this year’s November election.
Candidates would have to re-qualify, supervisors of election would have to redraw precinct maps and update their databases and voters would need to receive their new cards, all of which would cost state and local agencies—and candidates—a substantial amount of money and resources. Absentee ballots have already been mailed for the primary election in August, and any changes to the maps would undoubtedly affect adjacent districts as well.
In light of the logistical impossibility of applying the new maps in time for the Nov. 4 election, Judge Lewis has indicated that he may order a special election sometime after November for the newly drawn districts. Legislators have vowed to challenge such a ruling.
With her district as one of the two targeted by Judge Lewis, Rep. Brown has emerged as a strange bedfellow ally for the Republican leadership in Tallahassee. She slammed the judge’s ruling as “certainly not in the best interests of Florida voters,” and said it “ignores one of the central principles of redistricting: maintaining communities of interest or minority-access districts.” Many expect her to challenge the ruling regardless of how the Legislature acts.
Her district stretches from Jacksonville down into Orlando and is made up of predominantly African-American and Democratic voters.
This entire ordeal was a result of a lawsuit filed by a coalition headed by the League of Women Voters and other left-leaning groups that alleged the Republican-controlled Legislature drew maps based on favoring incumbents and other such political considerations in violation of the “Fair Districts” amendment approved by voters in 2010. Brown unsuccessfully sued to invalidate it after its passage.
During the course of the trial, it was revealed through e-mails and other evidence that legislative staff were secretly sharing drafts of maps and other information with Republican political consultants. At least one of the maps shared by political operatives was submitted under someone else’s name. According to Lewis’ ruling, these “seemed to be in the Central Florida area, which coincidentally, were the areas in the enacted map [he] found to be problematic.”
The judge zeroed-in on this issue of operatives trading information behind the scenes, stating that “it make[s] a mockery of the Legislature’s proclaimed open and transparent process.”
The special session is estimated to cost Florida taxpayers more than $68,000 per day, in addition to the time, resources and expenses that local election supervisors will have to incur to update their databases and voter rolls after new congressional maps are adopted–especially if the courts order a special election.
Will the millionaire political operatives whose shenanigans instigated this ruling be forced to cover any of these costs? Nope. Will they make more money off these changes? You bet.
Such is politics in the Sunshine State.