With the recent Florida Supreme Court decision on congressional redistricting requiring lawmakers to return to Tallahassee, it seemed inevitable that the Senate would likewise want a “do over” on its map-drawing exercise for Senate lines.
Reporters and political consultants have written extensively about the potential of some senators having to fight with other senators for a new Senate district, especially among Republicans.
Most often cited is that Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala may have to duke it out for a Pinellas district because the court seemed to take aim at a district that crossed Tampa Bay.
Of course, there’s no way to know right now how many Senate lines will need to be redrawn until we get to see some proposed maps that will be drawn by anyone who has a hankering to do so.
The Fair Districts amendment is a trial lawyer’s bountiful annuity. It’s designed to encourage litigiousness by its very wording and the proponents who are also the plaintiffs have taken every chance to file lawsuits until they get their way on having the lines redrawn the way they want them.
And a complicit judiciary is in many cases only too willing to go along.
This comes down to the eternal belief by the Florida Democratic Party that because they have 400,000 more Democratically-registered voters in the state, they naturally should have more elected legislators.
In a perfect world they would indeed. However, the fallacy of their thinking is that just because lines are drawn more fairly doesn’t mean that more Democrats will be elected. One could certainly be excused for thinking so and perhaps it will come to fruition, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.
It will depend on the ability of the Democratic Party to find credible candidates to run in these new districts, and given the state of candidate recruitment recently by the party, don’t be surprised if they fall short once again.
To make matters worse for them, unless they have the dollars to run competitive campaigns, they’re not going to be successful either.
But the one factor that everyone to date seems to have forgotten about is the potential, at least theoretically, that in the redrawing of Senate lines, Senate districts can also be renumbered!
Yep, Senate District 1 could become 2 and so forth. In doing so, some senators could take on a new life, at least until the reapportionment session in 2022.
By renumbering districts, incumbent state senators could get a new lease on elective life because they wouldn’t be on the ballot for the same district they represented previously.
This means that some senators who may have been looking at the end of their eight years in office could very well get the opportunity to extend their time in office and that, of course, would upset the apple cart mightily.
In addition to the renumbering, there’s also the matter of whether the “new” district would get an even number or an odd number, which would translate into whether a senator would get additional years tacked onto the term of office.
This might not only enable Republican but even Democratic senators, especially those who get along with the leadership, a chance to go beyond the eight years that normally all legislators serve.
The eight-year term limit is the rule but because half of all senators are up every two years, invariably when reapportionment sessions occur two years after a national census, some senators will always get 10 years instead of just eight because of the way Senate terms must be staggered.
In October the Senate will redraw lines and this may very well bring conflict to a number of senators.
Just keep your eyes peeled for the potential renumbering of Senate districts, which could add a whole new level to this dramatic exercise and also who gets an even- or odd-numbered district and what that will portend.
Barney Bishop III, one of the most familiar faces within the state business community, is CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting LLC in Tallahassee.