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One Person's Fairness Is Another Person's Gerrymander

September 1, 2014 - 6:00pm

For all the angst over redistricting, the truth is, there is no way to have perfect voting districts.

The Tallahassee judge who ruled that the Legislature did not create a perfect map of congressional districts was right. So what?

He can't do a better job and neither can a computer.

No matter how you slice them, there's going to be an advantage to one or the other major political parties because voters don't cooperate by housing themselves in exact 50-50 ratios of Democrats and Republicans, all contained in neat little geographic boxes

When Democrats had a lock on the Legislature and Republicans were an afterthought, you didn't hear a great outcry for fairness.

Since they can't deny that, liberals now resort to the old "two wrongs don't make a right" clich

But sometimes a second wrong cancels out the first.

Cities, counties and other geographic units are oddly shaped, so drawing squares and rectangles from Key West to Pensacola isn't going to be possible, if there is to be any attempt to create districts where the voters have any common local interests.

One practice contrary to that goal is the peculiar notion of drawing districts designed to ensure the election of persons of a particular skin color. Because that is anchored in the federal law, it requires -- rather than prohibits -- outright gerrymandering, and all other districts have to be drawn to accommodate them.

It is always going to be a bubble-based proposition, where pushing on one line causes another one to bulge like a balloon. Furthermore, legislators elected from each area should know the demographics and its competing and complementing interests better than a judge or a computer.

In short, the voters who thought they were going to ensure perfect harmony in the political universe when they voted for a constitutional amendment demanding the same were fooled.

Even though hearings were held all over the state, hundreds of people provided input and computers allowed everybody to be a redistricting genius, it was inevitable that not everyone would be satisfied.

You can write into the Constitution that all politicians will put the voters' interest above all else, but it ain't gonna happen.

That, in fact, is what all that stuff about financial disclosure and ethics is about, but it largely is a waste of time and its main effect probably is to keep good people from running for office.

It gives the media a thrill because they get to stick their noses further into other people's business and conjure up conflicts of interest.

I doubt that it is possible to create concise and contiguous voting districts throughout the state where both a Democrat and a Republican would have an equal chance of being elected.

Redistricting should be done by legislators -- unless you subscribe to the fantasy that all judges are merely objective, disinterested parties (like reporters).

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as a political analyst for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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