What's the difference between a nursery full of cranky babies and the Florida Legislature?

Scott Maxwell | Orlando Sentinel | 08/16/2015

There's less whining in the nursery.

Truly, Tallahassee became Tantrumhassee last week as Democrats and Republicans united to throw bipartisan hissy fits.

The topic was redistricting. Maybe you know that but don't understand all the particulars. Well, fear not, fine readers! I'm here to break it down into simple terms.

Scott, can you break this down in simple terms?

I'm glad you asked. Sure. Basically, Florida legislators were caught cheating. Now they have been told to play fair. And that has them enraged.

What did they do wrong?

Well, today's newspaper only has 108 pages. But if we stick to this week, they violated the Florida Constitution by cheating during redistricting.

OK, but what is redistricting?

It's redrawing the boundaries for congressional and legislative districts. See, our population changes a lot as people from New Jersey come down here for a while before they experience August and then leave for North Carolina. So, every 10 years, legislators redraw the lines to keep all the districts about the same size. They are supposed to draw sensible districts that follow city and county lines. But they were caught gerrymandering.

What is gerrymandering?

Imagine you asked me to draw a square.

OK.

Now imagine I drew a picture that resembled your large intestine … attached to the Eiffel Tower … connected to Lake Okeechobee's drainage basin.

I'd think you had mental problems.

Or you might think I was a Florida legislator! They do this a lot. See, if you're a Republican, you want mostly Republicans in your district. So you draw wavy lines that exclude black people and Democrats to get you and your buddies elected.

So Republicans are to blame.

Yes, and Democrats.

Huh?

Well, Democrats also used to gerrymander when they were in charge. Plus, Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown love gerrymandering. Because when Republicans exclude all those pesky black Democratic voters, they give them to her — so she's guaranteed re-election.

That's messed up.

Yep. That's why Florida voters finally struck back and passed the Fair Districts amendments, forcing legislators to draw sensible districts that look more like basic shapes than DNA strands.

So did the politicians listen?

Heavens no. Republican legislators lied, cheated and schemed to defy the constitution. So the courts ordered them to redraw the districts.

Is that what's happening now?

Yep.

So what's the problem?

Reality is setting in that fair districts could end the gravy train. Some politicians who won elections in gerrymandered districts are realizing they will lose re-election in fair districts. So they are throwing hissy fits.

Like who?

Like Daniel Webster. The normally sober Republican went to Tallahassee last week to say that redrawing his district was unfair because it would make it hard for him to win re-election.

Shut up.

I will not. Webster whined that redrawing the district would make it "uncompetitive for anyone in my party, including me."

Did anyone care?

Probably Webster's wife and campaign staff.

What about Corrine Brown?

If it's a day that ends in "y," you can pretty much bet that Brown is threatening to sue. She loves her gerrymandered district that slithers from Jacksonville to Orlando. So if anyone messes with it, she is vowing to sue.

Scott, when all of this is done, do you think we'll actually have fair districts?

I think I'm more likely to sprout a third nipple.

Do you want a third nipple?

No, dude. Don't be weird. But I do think things will be better. See, fair districts lead to more competitive elections, better candidates and fewer extremists. And politicians have to actually listen to their constituents to stay in office.

Isn't that how it should be?

Yes ... which is why there's so much whining.


Legal battle over state Senate districts coming to an end

01/20/2016
TALLAHASSEE - A contentious battle over Florida state senate districts is coming to an end. read more »

Senate won't appeal redistricting ruling

01/20/2016
Clearing the way for elections later this year with a map that could boost Democrats' numbers in the Senate, Republican leaders decided Wednesday not to appeal a Leon County judge's ruling setting districts for the chamber's 40 seats. read more »

Florida Senate won't appeal ruling on new districts

01/20/2016
TALLAHASSEE — Senate leaders said Wednesday that they will not appeal last month's court ruling that sided with a voters' coalition in setting new district boundaries. read more »

Florida Legislature won't appeal redistricting ruling

01/20/2016
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature is giving up the fight and will not contest a court ruling that redraws all of the state's 40 state senate districts for the 2016 election cycle. read more »

Editorial: Republicans should accept redistricting defeat and drop talk of appeals

01/10/2016
For a brief moment last week it appeared the Florida Legislature had come to its senses and was willing to accept a judge's ruling on the boundaries for new state Senate districts. read more »

Renumbering state Senate districts triggers political scramble

01/10/2016
TALLAHASSEE — It may sound like a simple process, but the Florida Senate's random renumbering of all its districts statewide Tuesday touched off a series of complicated twists that one key lawmaker said only adds more chaos to a continuing redistricting saga. read more »