(Any underlines are mine.)
JUDGE HANDS DEMOCRATS A HUGE WIN IN FLORIDA JUST IN TIME FOR ELECTIONS, by Rika Christensen --
The GOP in Florida has lost a major battle they should never had had a chance at winning in the first place. A judge for the Leon Circuit has ruled in favor of district maps drawn up by voters' groups, and not the GOP-controlled legislature. These new maps give Democrats a new chance at capturing the state's Senate in upcoming elections by making districts competitive again...
Judge George Reynolds rejected the state Senate's maps as partisan, saying: "While the Senate maintains that the selection of Senate Map 1 was without partisan intent and that all safeguards were taken to insulate staff from outside political influence, it is difficult to infer anything other than impermissible partisan intent in the selection of Senate Map 1 based on its political performance."
Gerrymandering has been losing a lot of ground around the nation, particularly in the wake of a little-known Supreme Court decision (last) summer that upheld Arizona's citizen redistricting commission...which paved the way for other states to create their own independent commissions to combat the scourge of gerrymandering.
"Safe districts" are a major problem for voters and the population because they give one party a distinct advantage over the other for years at a time. States end up with disproportionate representation in their legislatures and in the federal government. Florida is a prime example of this, with more Democratic voters than Republican voters, but far more Republicans controlling the state.My state of Ohio is much the same way. Many of the state's Democrats have been stacked in one, long, narrow district running along the northern border with Lake Erie. Republican gerrymandering has even split cities into poor neighborhoods (add them to a predominately Democratic district!) and more affluent neighborhoods (attach them to a rural district which is mostly Republican). It keeps the Republicans in charge in the State House while limiting the Democrats to one district that they have any real chance of winning.
Safe districts can cause two massive problems that seem contradictory: The first is to make legislators lazy, because they don't have to fear serious challenges from the opposition. However, it can also make them more exteme politically, because they fear primary challenges from their lunatic fringes. This is part of how the GOP's lunatice fringe, a.k.a. the Tea Party, took over. Republicans scewed themselves with their gerrymandering efforts, because they created hyperpartisan districts for themselves, some of which were way too far right. When you create entire districts for your lunatic fringe, your lunatic fringe takes over.
Florida's new maps--one for the House and one for the Senate--will be drawn by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida. These two groups spearheaded the four-year long war against the Republican's own redistricting plans. The court rejected those plans as illegal under a voter-approved ban on gerrymandering...
...Other states with independent redistricting commissions include California, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Washington. These commissions do not include lawmakers as a general rule, which is necessary to create the fairest map possible.
Ohio voters approved a ballot measure earlier this year to reform the redistricting process in their state. With that, the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's commission, and this latest ruling in Florida, we're seeing a slow, agonizing death to the gerrymandering process, which will help voters get their voices back...I know I certainly look forward to living in a district that is not stretched across most of the North Coast of my state. I sincerely believe it will remove the strangle hold the Republican Party has held on Ohio for too many years.
Read Ms. Christensen's entire article here