Friday, July 18, 2014

Fixing the Florida Legislature, pt1

           Currently Florida is in a political legal bind because of the redrawing of voting districts.  If you are wondering why that is the case, it is because Florida has been cut into lumpy and inconsistent shapes that when looked at thru the lens of "who is likely to vote for each party" overwhelmingly the districts swing toward Republicans.
            Florida, both in 2008 and 2012 voted for President Obama, it was a narrow margin of victory, but never the less a majority of the voters did vote Democratic rather than Republican.  Logically one would imagine a slight majority of the seats in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives would be for the Democratic side.  This is not the case.
            Florida's state government is overwhelmingly Republican in representation,  75 to 45 in the House (62.5%) and 26 to 14 (65%) in the Senate.  But that representation does not reflect how people have been shown to vote in larger elections.  Which means shenanigans are at play.
            If you do not know, representation is in part based on population.  You divide the state up in to roughly equal cuts of people, 120 in the House and 40 in the Senate.  Most of the map features used to divide these groups are arbitrary: random streets, county boarders, city lines are sometimes used to guide things, but there is no law that says a county or city must be whole inside of a particular voting area, or that a voting area must be in as few a counties as possible.  So a long string could be laid the length of the state and people along that string could vote together, or a tight square could be drawn, and the people in there could vote together.

For instance, here is the Senate map.
            Now it starts off somewhat fine, you can see how geography would get in the way of drawing perfect rectangles for 1, 2, 3... But then you look at 4 which is not a block, but horseshoe shape, wrapped completely around 9.  That seems... QUESTIONABLE.
            Representing district 4 (the horseshoe) is Senator Aaron Bean (R), who won the 2012 election with 62% of the vote.  In district 9 (not the movie) you have Senator Audrey Gibson (D) who won with 64% of the vote.  It's almost like this area was divided in such a way that the Democrat and Republican would each have a district that was solidly theirs, even though the districts have to be... CREATIVELY drawn.
            Look again at districts that seem to have INTERESTING geography.  District 19 in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area, currently held by Senator Arthenia L. Joyner (D) who won with... 100% of the vote... The Hell?  Or, District 14, which snakes through 3 different counties.  It is represented by Senator Darren Soto (D) who won his election with 70% of the vote.
            Do these outcomes really seem like the fair and reasonable selection of a Senator by an informed public with a balance of ideals?  NO, OBVIOUSLY.  Why even ask?  These candidates won in landslides and their districts are drawn to insure that.  And a court just ruled that the new map will be worse.

            What might fix something like this?  I will tell you in part 2.

             (If you have a criticism of what I have written, please comment.  If you like what I wrote, please share this on your various social networks and +1 it on Google+.  I would like more people to be aware of the failings of not only Florida, but State Governments all over the US, and this is as best attempt I can muster to illustrate the problems while still having enough humor that people can stomach reading the whole thing.  Thank you.)

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