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Florida Election Results 2012: Obama Wins, But Gerrymandering Helped GOP Keep the House

For four days, the nation stared at Florida like a pregnancy test as we waited for the damn thing to finally turn blue. Florida’s 29 electoral college votes brought the final count to 332 for President Obama against Mitt Romney’s 206. But by the time the tally was in, no one cared about the numbers.

Romney conceded the state on Thursday, and President Obama already had surpassed the necessary 270 electoral votes needed to win. Instead, Florida generated media attention for once again appearing to be unable to count. Governor Rick Scott’s brazen attempts at voter suppression were Tunisia-like in their disregard for democratic institutional capacity. PolicyMic’s Frank Hagler wrote:

“[Scott] tried to change voter registration laws only to have that effort overturned by the courts. He reduced early voting hours from 14 to 8 days before the election. His voting machines failed, his infrastructure ran out of supplies and polling sites were closed when they ran out of supplies and personnel to support the turnout. He refused to keep the polling sites open and he was forced to allow for absentee ballots to be accepted on Sunday before the election. He was even sued on the weekend before the election for failure to perform his duty to the citizens who elected him to office.”

Despite perceived efforts to disenfranchise voters, Florida should also be praised for taking action against the most pervasive and effective voter manipulation of all: partisan gerrymandering.

Republican gerrymandering of electoral districts isn’t as sexy to kick up a fuss about, nor does it make for as good memes, but it’s safe to say that elaborate redistricting helped the party to win their current House majority. And to win by redistricting, looks an awful lot like cheating. Professor Geoffrey Stone emphasized that:

 “Although the Republicans won 55% of the House seats, they received less than half of the votes for members of the House of Representatives. Indeed, more than half-a-million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans House candidates. There was no split-decision. The Democrats won both the presidential election and the House election. But the Republicans won 55% of the seats in the House.

This seems crazy. How could this be?

This answer lies in the 2010 election, in which Republicans won control of a substantial majority of state governments. They then used that power to re-draw congressional district lines in such a way as to maximize the Republican outcome in the 2012 House election.”

Florida’s two 2010 Fair District constitutional amendments, which prohibited incumbents from redrawing electoral maps in their own favor, made the local and national races more competitive. And from economics to politics, robust competition is always beneficial to the consumers/voters. Incumbents who couldn’t assume easy reelection had to work even harder to listen to what their constituents, many of which were minorities, wanted.

The amendments helped Democrats gain four Congressional seats, and six state legislature spots. More importantly, it helped the Florida electorate to more accurately reflect the will of its citizens. That is, once they were actually allowed to vote.

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