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  1. Florida Politics

Romano: Why the redistricting mess is so outrageous

Published May 27, 2014

"I don't just want to hear from politicians; I want to hear from people who live in neighborhoods.''

State Sen. Don Gaetz, after he was named chairman of the Senate redistricting committee in 2010.

"The door was open.''

Gaetz, when asked in court last week about secret meetings he had with House Speaker Will Weatherford where the final redistricting map was chosen without any public notice.

The trial over Florida's redistricting maps is soon to enter its second week, and it's probably fair to say insomniacs are the early leaders.

In other words, this case is going absolutely nowhere and taking its sweet time.

In this corner you have a big, stinking pile of plausible deniability, and in that corner you have a bunch of smirking politicos with convenient memory lapses.

The maps they turned in seem as illegal as the dickens, but the chances of them being declared as such seem remote.

Here, then, is a recap of the first week:

Mysteriously deleted documents? Check.

Paid consultants with undue access? Check.

Secret meetings? Check.

Amazing coincidences? Check.

Smoking gun? Not yet.

Instead, what you have is a sneaking suspicion that the process was very cautiously rigged by people such as Gaetz. He talked eloquently two years ago about including the common man, and then pulled a party consultant's map out of his sleeve.

But if you're inclined to dump all of this on Republicans, you might want to think twice. There were plenty of Democrats who were more than happy to go along with the status quo on this one.

You see, the way the maps are drawn, there are a handful of districts with an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters. Sounds good for the liberals, right? Ah, but there are far more districts with a smallish majority of Republican voters.

Ever wonder why, in a state where Democrats are the majority party and where presidential elections are usually razor close, the Republican Party has a stranglehold on the state Legislature and congressional seats?

This is the reason.

Democratic voters are hoarded into a handful of districts, and those incumbents would rather keep their own slam-dunk victories than raise a stink about inequities.

Meanwhile, the Fair Districts amendments passed by the state's voters in 2010 are pretty much ignored.

Those amendments should require districts to be contiguous and compact while making as much use as possible of city, county and geographical boundaries.

And yet you have a Congressional district that stretches from downtown Tampa to St. Petersburg and part of Manatee County, but doesn't venture to Temple Terrace.

On the other side of the state, you have a congressional district that begins in Orlando, travels north, jogs west, cuts back east, takes another left toward the north, stretches beyond Jacksonville and, if I'm not mistaken, has a few voters from south Georgia.

This is important stuff, and it should be more outrageous that your elected leaders seem to have discovered a new strain of communicable amnesia.

Unfortunately, it looks like they might get away with it.

The burden is now on you to remember how they did it.

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