FL Senate admits to redistricting corruption oops

KATE BRADSHAW | Creative Loafing Tampa Bay | 07/28/2015

The League of Women Voters of Florida is applauding Florida Senators' admission that they indeed drew Senate districts to Republicans' advantage despite a constitutional amendment barring such a practice, #sorrynotsorry.

The League and the progressive nonprofit Common Cause filed suit in 2012 after being, shall we say, underwhelmed at the level of attention the Senate paid to a 2010 voter mandate requiring lawmakers to draw congressional and state senate districts contiguously and in a manner that doesn't intentionally favor one political party (Republicans, obvs) over another, or incumbents, thereby ensuring control for Republicans.

The news comes barely three weeks after the state Supreme Court determined lawmakers had a similarly, er, creative interpretation of the Fair Districts Florida amendment when it drew eight of the state's Congressional districts, some of which have shapes akin to weird trippy spatter imagery you'd find in the likes of Fear and Loathing.

Many had figured the Senate districts would be deemed nearly as ridiculous at best, but a decision wasn't expected until September.

So lawmakers' admission was a pleasant surprise in that it saves literally all of us (those of us who pay taxes in Florida) precious resources that would otherwise have gone toward fighting a lawsuit against something we clearly don't want.

"The Florida Senate today confessed that the March, 2012 Senate redistricting maps were drawn in violation of the Constitution and in favor of certain parties and incumbents," said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said in a written statement following the event. "This is a huge victory for all Floridians and the belief that we all have a right to honest, open government."

According to a memo the House Speaker's office sent out, the legislature will redraw the Senate districts during a special session set to begin October 19. As is the case with the upcoming Congressional district makeover, writes the News Service of Florida's Brandon Larrabee, "the Legislature will have to prove to the court that its map follows the Constitution, rather than the plaintiffs being required to show that the districts were unconstitutional."

"This was a battle that had to be fought," Goodman said. "What happened in 2012 when the districts were drawn undercover with no intention of considering the best needs of a district and its voters was an egregious example of greed, influence and naked political ambition."

Hilariously, the session will be the third special legislative session this year.

The first happened when lawmakers flunked the regular session (seventh grade civics, if you will) and couldn't pass a budget, which is the only thing they were required to do. They took care of that in June during a special session with the help of a bunch of mysterious wheeling and dealing (a shit-ton of which was inconsequential thanks to the governor's grotesque veto pen). They're going back to redraw eight Congressional districts in August (including two in Tampa Bay), just in time to soak up that famous hot-as-balls Tallahassee summer swamp air.

Then, in October, they head back. But hey, it's nice that time of year. Plus, football. And golf.

As with the Congressional districts, there will likely be considerable political fallout from this, including two in Tampa Bay, where there are a handful of Senate districts that were drawn in ways that only make sense to super duper secret GOP political consultants.

As Tampa Tribune Tallahassee reporter James Rosica writes, among the seats affected include State Sen. Arthenia Joyner's bay-spanning seat as well as that of State Sen. Jeff Brandes.

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