Silver Lining in Florida’s GOP Romp

If you’re a Democrat in Florida, Election Day was a brutal one. Not only did conservative Marco Rubio cruise to victory in his state’s Senate race, but Republican Rick Scott is poised to claim the governor’s mansion, tea party favorite Allen West defeated incumbent Ron Klein by nearly 10 points, and incumbent Democratic congressmen Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas both lost by nearly 20 points each. With so many Republicans taking power in the Sunshine State, and with Republicans winning a two-thirds majority in the state legislature, the fear is that the party in control will use its power to redraw district lines and try to solidify its hold on government.

But there’s something of a silver lining in Florida’s elections. At the same time they elected numerous Republicans to office, Florida voters approved two constitutional amendments making it more difficult for the party in power to redraw state legislative and congressional districts in their favor. At 1:30 am on Wednesday, both amendments had 63 percent of the public’s backing. (In Florida, constitutional amendments need 60 percent support to pass.)

The kind of pro-incumbent political redistricting these two amendments aim to prevent is exactly what the GOP wants. As my colleague Nick Baumann wrote on Monday, redistricting power is everything: “The real prize in Tuesday’s midterm elections is the power to draw congressional seats and determine the country’s balance of power for the next decade.” He added:

If either party can achieve what politicos call the “trifecta”—control of the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature—in a given state, it will be able to draw congressional districts within that state unencumbered by any need to compromise with the other party. That’s the kind of power that creates electoral maps like the one former GOP Majority Leader Tom Delay helped bring to Texas in 2003—a map that pushed four of the state’s Democrats out of their seats.

But with Floridians choosing to block this kind of political scheming, they’ve gone a long way toward preventing the Florida GOP from abusing their power to the point where that party can create a near-permanent majority of their own.