Romano: Pitiful showing for legislative elections proves the case that districts were rigged

John Romano[ck_comma] Times Columnist | Tampa Bay Times | 06/23/2014

Is it too late to submit evidence in the redistricting trial in Tallahassee?

Maybe slip it under the judge's door after hours? Compose a random tweet? Follow him into the men's room and casually start a conversation?

Granted, closing arguments have been submitted and a verdict is not too far away but the heart of the case was essentially proved on Friday.

That's when the deadline for potential legislative candidates expired, and the illusion that our votes actually matter was put to rest.

Nearly one-third of the candidates for 140 Senate and House seats are running unopposed. You think that sounds bad? Pffft, that just scratches the surface.

Dozens of other races offer only the appearance of competition with write-in, third-party and no-party affiliated candidates on board. No disrespect intended to those folks, but it has been decades since anyone booked passage to Tallahassee via that route.

All of which brings us to the bottom line:


There are a grand total of 57 races out of 140 that include both a Republican and a Democrat. Fifty-stinking-seven!

That means nearly 60 percent of the legislative races in November are slam dunks. And only a handful of the other 40 percent will actually turn out to be competitive.

In other words, your American Idol vote will probably carry more weight. So why does Judge Terry Lewis need to hear this?

Because this is the point the League of Women Voters is trying to make with its lawsuit accusing state leaders of rigging the system with their recent

redistricting maps.

The maps are drawn to have predetermined outcomes in elections. Republicans have given themselves enough safe districts to ensure they will remain in power, and they have given Democrats just enough safe districts to keep them from complaining.

So who loses?

You.

Instead of getting multiple choices of candidates who have a legitimate chance to win, you are stuck with take-it-or-leave-it elections.

The bigger problem is you have already made it clear you were tired of this sham. Florida voters overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments that forbid the Legislature from just this kind of district stacking when maps were redrawn for 2012.

And yet the problem is only getting worse.

In 2010, the last election under the old maps, 51.7 percent of the races failed to field both a Republican and a Democrat. In 2012, the first year of new maps, that percentage rose to 54.3. Right now, barring anyone dropping out, it's 59.2 percent.

So that means the legislative leaders who were specifically instructed to redraw maps to make them more competitive may have actually made them more lopsided.

Which is easy to believe if you listened to the testimony of deleted emails, consultants being invited to the table and a phantom map falsely submitted under a student's name.

Now you might argue some of those unopposed — or noncompetitive — races are simply due to no one wanting to face popular incumbents. And that's entirely true. But it defies reality to suggest nearly 60 percent of our legislators are so well-liked that no one from the opposing party, be it Republican or Democrat, is willing to challenge them.

I would ask for a show of hands to see who agrees, but apparently that's not how we do things in Florida.


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