A bizarre alliance of so-called “good government groups” working with the usual suspects are trying to engineer an end run around the will of the people in Florida.
Fronted by a woman who used to be the cochair of Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign in the state, the group “Fair Districts Florida” is trying to overlay atop the existing redistricting process a series of limitations and restrictions that will make it that much easier to get the post-2010 Census remap into court.
Why? “A fair map,” meaning one favorable to the Democrats, “would probably produce another three to five Democratic [House] Districts,” the ultra-liberal National Committee for an Effective Congress’s Tom Bonior told Politico’s Ben Smith.
While not exactly “shady,” to borrow a word very much in vogue, it is nonetheless suspicious that Fair Districts Florida recently received a large cash infusion of more than $1 million, Smith reported, “most of it filtered through local groups” from “three major national Democratic allies,” all of whom hope to help Democrats win in court what they may lose at the ballot box.
All the usual suspects are there, in one form or another. One group is linked to liberal financiers George Soros and Peter Lewis. The National Education Association has given money. So have the Service Employees International Union and the pro-abortion Emily’s List operation. Even the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now wrote a check, Politico says, before it stopped being ACORN.
Using its several million dollar bankroll, Fair Districts Florida is pushing for two amendments to the state constitution that, which seemingly innocuous, would almost guarantee any new state legislative or congressional district would end up in front of some judge who would have to rule on its “fairness.”
This, in itself, is not new. It is increasingly the practice, regrettably in both parties, to short-circuit the political process by assigning to judges the responsibility for making the kinds of decisions elected officials should, and then be held accountable for doing so.
Under Florida’s Amendment 5, currently appearing on the November ballot, members of the state legislature retain the responsibility for and authority to draw state district lines but with the added caveat that “legislative districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party,” among other new requirements. The proposed Amendment 6 would apply the same standard to U.S. congressional districts.
Who makes the determination as to whether favoritism was shown? Some judge, asked to rule on a lawsuit probably filed by some aggrieved public interest group funded by a combination of union money and, no doubt, government grants.
Notice that this is being pushed in Florida, which has term limits for state legislators but is arguably a Republican state, despite the fact that Barack Obama carried it in 2008 and several of its statewide elected officials are Democrats.
It is not, however, being pushed in Massachusetts, where this seemingly sound piece of liberal public policy could be enacted quite easily.
Massachusetts, it is worth noting, has a seemingly permanent liberal Democratic majority in its legislature and, for the moment at least, has a delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives that is both all Democrat and all white, despite the 2000 Census having determined that Boston was now a majority-minority city.
It is also not being pushed in Illinois or New York, where the Democrats might just wield all the redistricting pens come January 2010.
No, the target is Florida, where the Democrats seem to think they just might be able to rewrite the constitution to achieve a political end favorable to their interests. It is not as though they are offering a nonpartisan commission to do the job or proposing that the responsibility for redistricting be shifted to a panel of retired federal judges; they are trying to keep the politics in the process, but in a way that helps them overturn the will of the electorate, which, if it wants a GOP-led state legislature, will vote one into office.
Having listened for months to “the smart set” opine that the U.S. Constitution is sacrosanct and only changeable by lawyers and judges--rather than by amendment as the founders and several of the more prominent Tea Party types running for office have suggested--it is surprising that this effort in Florida has not gotten more attention. Or maybe the people who are afraid to even discuss amending the U.S. Constitution don’t think that state constitutions, or the states themselves, are just that important anymore.
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Corrected on 10/18/2010: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly indicated the census at issue. It is the 2010 census.