Mitch Perry Report 7.11.14: Judge throws out two Florida voting maps, but who draws the new ones?

The way some Florida political observers see it, it's a bit of a surprise that Circuit Judge Terry Lewis found only two congressional districts in Florida in violation of the 2010 "Fair Districts" constitutional amendment, which required state legislators to no longer draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party (i.e. "gerrymandering").

In his 41-page findings (which CL has not been able to read yet), Judge Lewis said that the two districts that were literally out of bounds were Democrat Corrine Brown's infamously ridiculously-drawn district that includes both Jacksonville and Orlando, and the Orlando-area district currently held by Republican Daniel Webster.

Lewis apparently found nothing wrong with the two Tampa Bay districts that were also under review: Kathy Castor's in CD14, and David Jolly's in CD13. Both have been intentionally drawn to favor the incumbents, and were like that before 2010. 

Castor's district includes much of Hillsborough County, but then reaches across the bay, but only into the St. Petersburg Democratic strongholds of downtown and South St. Pete. It also includes part of Manatee County, making absolutely no sense at all, but conveniently including those Democratic voters who presumably would have made it harder for a Republican in CD13, which includes all of Pinellas County except for downtown and South St. Pete.

And what about state Senate District 22, which includes much of Pinellas County, but then cuts into South Tampa? How does that make sense?

Undoubtedly House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, both Republicans, will appeal the verdict. It certainly won't affect the 2014 elections, but will in 2016, and probably to the Democrats' benefit, and not just in those two districts. (Actually Corrine Brown is quite upset about the judge's ruling, since it's obviously going to affect her personally depending on how the district is redrawn.)

It's not known at this time whether the Republican Party leaders will get another crack at redrawing for 2016, or a judge will do that. Critics of the Fair District Amendment (such as this reporter) felt that even though it called for districts to be drawn fairly and contiguously, it still allowed the political party in power to control the creation of the districts. Several states in recent years have gone to nonpartisan independent commissions to do that. Critics of that system claim that nobody is truly nonpartisan or independent, since politicians are the ones appointing people to those commissions. A fair point, but the fact is that the farther you can take the people who directly benefit from drawing the lines away from the process, the better chance you have of a fairer, objective outcome.

In other news…

Progressives unhappy about the Supreme Court decision on the Hobby Lobby case took to the streets of Tampa yesterday.....Three of the four candidates for the House District 61 seat that represents Tampa in the Legislature debated the other night.....and I met someone yesterday who'd just recently heard about this whole "Uber" thing. If you'd like to know more about the ride-sharing app in the Tampa Bay market, read our new story about that here.


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