24 October 2005

The fight for fair elections is now

The bipartisan effort to create a fair process for drawing congressional and legislative districts in Florida has hit a bump in the road. Politicians in Tallahassee are pulling out all the stops to maintain their stranglehold on power in Florida. Opponents of fair districts have run to court, filing motions to prevent voters from deciding this issue next fall. And partisan members of the Florida Legislature are already using our tax dollars for their own political agendas. The Committee for Fair Elections has been successfully collecting signatures from Florida voters in order to place this issue on the ballot next year, but they still may fall short with the electorate. If the proponents of fair districts don't form a politically strong argument for this issue soon, they will lose this fight before it even begins.

The redistricting issue is a complex one. While readers of political blogs are familiar with the flawed process in Florida, most voters are not. Fair election advocates have failed to create a strong argument for their position, including preemptive strikes against their likely opponents. Now that the enemies of democracy in Florida have reared their ugly heads, the Committee for Fair Elections must not wait any longer. They must act now.

First, supporters of the amendments need to stop talking about redistricting or reapportionment. Talk about fair elections.

Voters don't know what the terms redistricting or reapportionment mean. This issue is about fair elections. The Committee for Fair Elections needs to circulate a memo instructing all supporters to refer to these initiatives as the Fair Elections Amendments, not the Redistricting Amendments. Voters will understand this.

Second, the Committee for Fair Elections must define its opponents.

A number of Congressmen and state legislators have joined forces to defeat the Fair Elections Amendments. The Committee should make them the issue. Voters must understand these politicians' motivations.

All but one of the opponents of the Fair Elections Amendments are Republican. Florida Democrats hold a registration advantage over Republicans, but the GOP holds just under two-thirds of the state senate, more than two-thirds of the Florida House, and nearly three-quarters of the Florida Congressional delegation. Of course, Republicans would like us to believe that this is because the voters agree with them on issues like high deficit spending, political corruption, and government intrusion in end-of-life decisions, but those who are honest will admit that the system is rigged. These Republican politicians only oppose the Fair Elections Amendments in order to preserve their own political power.

The only Democrat to officially oppose the Fair Elections Amendments, Senator Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee), represents a district where 65.04% of the voters are Democrats. Senator Lawson has a reason to oppose the amendments - his own self-preservation. Senator Lawson has put his own interests over those of the citizens of Florida, and proponents of fair elections should point out his true motivation.

Supporters of the Fair Elections Amendments have done an exceptional job in collecting signatures in order to place the issue on the ballot next fall. Unfortunately they have failed to create a coherent message for why voters should agree with them. The winner of this issue next November will likely be the one who successfully defines the issue. For the sake of Florida's future, let's hope that the Committee for Fair Elections gets moving soon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it’s a coincidence that elections only became unfair after the Republican Party became the representative majority in Florida. Back in the “good ole days” when elections were fair, the Democrats controlled the state legislature for more than a century. Do I taste a bit of sour grapes? Whining only makes the Democrat party look more pathetic. Stop trying to change the rules, get some new ideas, and make an effort at the ballot box. In the meantime, I love red state Florida.

3:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Would you happen to know where I can find a copy of the FDP Bylaws? I can't find them anywhere on the FDP website.

If you know, please drop me a line at fladem@exygy.com


3:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the first post, you are missing the big picture. The 1992 reapportionment was done by the Republicans after they cut a deal with the Black Caucus. Find Tom Slade's comments about their deal and how they created more black seats while "white washing" the surrounding districts. There is a reason that the state is nearly even between the two major parties, but the GOP holds about 2/3 of the seats. The system is rigged.

As for the Democrats controlling the process for hundreds of years, that is true. But what you are missing, whether because you don't know any better or because you are denying the truth, is that the districts could never be drawn with such precision before because this was the first time advanced computer software was available. The software used in Florida, called FREDS, allowed the Republicans to identify the demographics of voters down to the city block. I can't imagine that the Democrats of the early 1900s having that ability.

I will applaud you for using the standard RP talking points. I would have preferred that you introduced an original thought, but I know that is very hard for Republicans. I don't want to ask too much.

2:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The weakness in the argument by the GOoPer above is that two wrongs don't make a right. (Although, she may be saying that two wrongs make the right-wing!)

Her argument above is that the Dems have been playing unfair for years, so now it is OK that the GOP provides unfair districts. I love the fact that the GOoPer in her post admits that the districts are unfair. Instead, she whines that since the Dems were mean to her party for years, it's payback time. Unfortunately, she says that it will have to be at the expense of the voters.

Like most Republican arguments, her post was sad, sad, sad!

2:37:00 PM  
Blogger james H said...

Well said Mr. Troxler ...


By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist
Published October 30, 2005


I have only good wishes for Allan Bense, the honorable speaker of our state House. He seems like a nice enough guy. He sure seems to be doing a fairer job so far than the last speaker, Johnnie Byrd.

Nope. No personal ill will whatsoever.

But what he is doing ought to be illegal.

Bense is spending up to $50,000 of taxpayer money to fight a citizen petition to amend our state Constitution. The House has hired lawyers at public expense. They already have filed arguments with the Florida Supreme Court.

This is the opposite of "conservative." It is the government claiming the power to fight the citizens in their most fundamental exercise of democracy - and to use the power of taxation to do it.

Somewhere, the ghost of King George III is smiling.

"I feel it is my responsibility," Bense explained in an e-mail to his fellow House members, "to protect our institution and the people of Florida."

Notice the choice of words. He has a "responsibility" to protect "our" institution. He threw in "the people of Florida," but, you know, it is those same "people of Florida" who are petitioning.

The petition in question (actually, three petitions) would take away the Legislature's power to draw its own voting districts, as well as the voting districts for Florida's members of Congress. An independent board would draw fair, competitive districts.

A lot of people think this is a good idea. The district maps in Florida are rigged. They are so rigged that not a single member of the Legislature was defeated in the last election in 2004.

No incumbents defeated, not a single one across Florida! We have lived to see the Russians hold more competitive elections than we do.

It is a problem across America. You might have read that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading a fight for fair districts. Remember, too, the shenanigans in Texas, where U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay redrew voting lines at will.

On the other hand, some people are mighty threatened by the idea. They tend to be the people who have power now.

Republicans have the majority in the Florida Legislature, and many of them don't want competitive districts. Believe me, a lot of Democrats are happy with their own safe little fiefdoms and don't want to lose them either.

Even if you think the petition is a bad idea, please consider the separate issue of the government trying to block it.

It doesn't matter what particular petition we're talking about, and it doesn't matter whether the Legislature thinks it is a good or bad idea. The government still has no "right" to take a side.

It doesn't matter if the petition is to abolish the Florida House, or end the members' salaries and pensions, or make them hold their meetings buck naked with paper bags over their heads, or make the speaker wear fuzzy pink slippers.

The citizens are entitled to petition to change their government. Period. The citizens are the boss of the government. Period. It says so in the U.S. Constitution, and it says so in the Florida Constitution.

If Allan Bense thinks a petition is a bad idea, he too has fundamental rights under the Constitution as a private citizen. He can file private legal challenges if he wants. He can campaign against it on his own time. Who knows? He might convince a majority of Floridians to agree with him.

But he should not be permitted to fight it with my money, money that I am forced to pay to him by the power of law.

Once again, the noble exception in Tallahassee has been Tom Lee of Hillsborough County, the president of the Florida Senate. Understandably, many senators oppose the petition. But Lee said it wouldn't be right to spend tax dollars.

The temptation of power exists at every level of government, from City Hall to the White House. At no time is this temptation more dangerous than when the government seeks to block elections or to influence their outcome. When it comes to his role as House speaker, Allan Bense has exactly one "responsibility," which he took a solemn oath to fulfill, and that is to obey the Constitution, as the citizens of Florida see fit to enact it.

2:19:00 PM  
Blogger james H said...

He might as well have mentioned Senator Lawson's name in this sentence.

"Believe me, a lot of Democrats are happy with their own safe little fiefdoms and don't want to lose them either."

2:21:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

I don't see how it's really going to matter, amd yes, maybe you're right. It will likely be good for the Dems.

11:08:00 PM  
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