So the Legislature is back at it, once more attempting to thread the devilishly minuscule eye of a needle only lawyers could love. Which is appropriate, because the thing was the creation of lawyers in the first place, and lawyers incapable of making the absurd and impractical seem reasonable soon come to be known as teachers or journalists or multilevel marketers. I mean, as anyone who has sat through a courtroom case can tell you, if all you hear is one side — it tends not to matter which side — even the lawyerly equivalent of Boo Weekly can make his version of the argument sound impenetrable. This is not to suggest, back in 2010 when voters were challenged to decide how future political boundaries would be drawn, the face-value presentation on behalf of compact, contiguous and party-neutral districts lacked merit. Indeed, there was then and remains today much to commend about such an arrangement, the very least of which is the likelihood that districts thus composed would simultaneously yield fewer safe seats while creating more competition. The last I looked, competition was revered as among the most precious of American virtues.
The problem, then and now, is strict adherence to the otherwise laudable goal of compact-contiguous-neutral districts must certainly collide with a 20-year-old federal edict regarding minority representation in Florida, each of which seems incontestable on its own, and each of which uses the same visual aid to serve its point.
The congressional district held by Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, has been virtually intact since it was drawn by a federal court in response to a 1992 lawsuit brought under the Voting Rights Act. Meandering some 200 miles through eight counties (Duval to Orange) more or less along the historic St. John’s River floodplain, Florida’s 5th Congressional District (No. 3 in the previous formulation) is the poster child of gerrymandering — that is, the practice of squeezing voters into a bloc to elicit desired election results.