There are two constitutional amendments that could be on the 2010 ballot that may do more to shake up state government than whomever is elected to the governor's mansion.
They are so potentially threatening to the status quo that there is already talk of lawsuits, disenfranchised minority voters and fears of a Democratic takeover of the GOP-controlled government. Read all about it here at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The two amendments sponsored by FairDistrictsFlorida.org would impose new standards on the Legislature when it comes to the drawing of both legislative and Congressional districts. The standards would require that districts could not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or a member of a political party and be compact if possible. While the group says it is bipartisan - and includes Republicans such as Thom Rumberger and Bob Milligan - some GOP operatives remain skeptical about the effort because it is getting bankrolled by a lot of groups with ties to Democrats.
Right now Democrats hold an edge in overall voter registration. But Republicans control the Florida Senate by a 26-14 margin and the House by a 76-44 split. Republicans will presumably be in control in 2012 when redistricting will take center stage again, but there are those who insist the new amendments would push the entire process into the courts and give Democrats an opening.
But here's an interesting twist: As part of the reporting of this story, I talked to Professor Jowei Chen of the University of Michigan. Chen and Professor Jonathan Rodden at Stanford University did a study that comes up with a fascinating premise.
The two professors concluded that Republicans would win 59 percent of the seats without any intentional gerrymandering.
In other words, Chen and Rodden conclude that Democrats are concentrated in urban areas, while suburban and rural districts tend to be "moderately Republican." The paper states that "the seemingly apolitical practice of requiring compact, contiguous districts will produce systematic pro-Republican bias."
Chen said they relied on the 2000 election because it is in essence a "tied" election.
The paper then states "Our simulations indicate that as long as Florida is divided into any reasonable number of districts, Republicans will hold an electoral majority in 58-61 % of these districts. Furthermore, we show that as Florida is hypothetically divided into larger numbers of smaller districts, the size of this bias decreases. But in order for the pro-Republican electoral bias to disappear, Florida would be need to be divided into an impracticably large number of legislative districts."
Additionally "The relationship uncovered in our simulations is clearly reflected in observed electoral bias in Florida. Analysis of data from actual district-level election returns in both chambers of the Florida Legislature as well as the Florida delegation to the U.S. Congress indicates that Republicans can indeed expect at least a ten percent seat advantage with 50 percent of the vote. In short, a substantial share of Florida's observed electoral bias can be accounted for without any intentional manipulation on the part of mischievous Republican cartographers."