TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather.
Saturday, Nov 01, 2014
Columnists

Amending our concept of what's 'fair'

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: July 11, 2013 at 11:00 PM

Right out of the box, give the folks behind (and also way, way behind) Amendments 5 and 6 credit. They couldn't have picked a better name for their project: Fair Districts Florida .

You may shoulder a quiver bristling with sharp opposing arguments, but you're down a dozen bull's-eyes before you've even drawn your bow. One side favors fairness. It says so right in their incorporation papers and all their advertisements. If you're not for fairness, you must be for ... unfairness .

Who could stand against fair districts? If you believe the editorial pages of Florida's newspapers, only grasping, desperate incumbents fearful that if they are unable to pick their voters, their voters will pick someone else.

Well, yeah, all of them. Plus Kurt Browning. And whatever we think of the incumbent class, Browning's presence at the tip of the opposition's spear elevates their argument before he's uttered a word.

Florida's immediate former Secretary of State and before that Pasco's longtime elections supervisor, the man's reputation for public service is spotless; his advocacy on behalf of honest, true and accurate elections unsurpassed; and his anticipation of election disasters unrivaled. Years before Bush v. Gore, he warned elected officials about the bomb lurking inside the punch-card ballot system, waiting only for the spark of a deadlocked election.

If Browning is against it, attention to the resistance must be paid.

Now, add the idealistic and benign-sounding provisions of 5 and 6. No favoring or disfavoring political parties or incumbents. Account for minority representation. Apply existing political (city limits, for instance) and geographical boundaries, where feasible . And make your districts compact and contiguous. Obvious - likely purposeful - loggerheads abound.

It is an exercise in the impossible, Browning says. Call it the Attorney Full-Employment Amendment of 2010. "They want the Legislature to throw up its hands and turn it over to the courts," where - according to Browning's reading - the black robes will gather behind closed doors for the drawing of lines not limited by Amendments 5 and 6 (the rules apply only to state lawmakers), nor subject to ongoing public scrutiny.

Of course. Consider the sponsors pouring millions into the effort: Politico's Ben Smith points out pro 5 and 6 contributors include liberal rabble-rouser George Soros, the Service Employees International Union and ACORN, all in pursuit of a game-changing scenario that has proved elusive on Election Day.

Florida's voter registration is lopsidedly Democratic, but its legislative and congressional representation is substantially Republican. Proponents of 5 and 6 point to this inverse relationship as a symptom of something sinister. Browning says history suggests otherwise.

Florida has favored Republicans in three consecutive gubernatorial races, and may yet make it four straight come Nov. 2. Republicans have won 5 of 6 statewide cabinet elections since 2002, and lead the polls in all three races this year.

The state tilted GOP in eight of the last 11 presidential elections. And in a sure sign of quirkiness, since 1980, Florida has elected Republicans in four of nine (soon to be five of 10) U.S. Senate races.

In short, if Democrats have not been able to turn their advantages in registration into ballot-box victories, it's a sure sign of something, if not exactly what Fair District Florida supporters would have us believe.

Browning's advice: "Run better candidates." And leave the state constitution the heck alone.

Listen to the one honest man in the fight. Sounds fair to us.


Tom Jackson hosts "The Jax Files Weekend" Saturdays at 11 a.m. on WGUL, 860 AM.

Subscribe to The Tampa Tribune

Comments