Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes shouldn’t have had any troubles getting re-elected in 2016. The Congressman has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2001 and has faced little electoral trouble in his 15 year congressional career. Forbes initially sat in the 4th congressional district, which following the 2012 round of redistricting, was a swing seat that voted for Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012.
This article is part of a series I will be conducting on the 2016 Democratic Primary.
The Real Reason the Southern States Backed Clinton
Hillary Clinton was always considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Sanders proved a much stronger opponent than anticipated in 2015, and by early 2016 his campaign was looking for an actual pathway to the nomination. However, any pathway to a majority of delegates in all likelihood closed after the southern primaries delivered major wins to Hillary Clinton in March.
Tuesday is the day of the Democratic Presidential Primary in Kentucky. Bernie Sanders is still trying to amass delegates in an increasingly long-shot effort to get the Democratic nomination. Clinton, hoping to put Sander’s away for good, has opted to actually spend money in the contest after ignoring Indiana and West Virginia. Kentucky’s closed primary is being sited as an opportunity for Clinton, as she often performs better in closed contests. However, this author is unconvinced, and sees Kentucky likely to be West Virginia Part II.
The day of the West Virginia primary, I posted this article predicting an especially large number of ballots to be cast for candidates other than Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Overall I expected Sanders to win by double digits due to demographics, but that the main story would be how many voters rejected both candidates. When the results came in, we did indeed see the largest share of the vote for non-Clinton or Sanders so far, 12.7%.
West Virginia and the Democratic Presidential Primary
Today is the West Virginia Presidential Primary. With Trump having secured the Republican nomination and already leading polls in the state by wide margins, most attention is focused on the Democratic side. While Clinton still stands poised to win the Democratic nomination, Sander’s is favored in West Virginia.
Three months ago, I wrote about Jefferson County, FL and its county commission/school board maps. The commission map had become subject of a lawsuit over whether using the population of a prison towards the commission lines was gerrymandering.
I advise you to read about the past issues with the Jefferson Commission and the use of prison populations in local jurisdictions here. In addition to the issue surrounding the use of a prison’s population, I argued that the commission districts disenfranchised African-Americans by only having one likely African-American seat out of five available. I argued that another district had the potential to elect African-Americans, but was adversely affected by turnout fluctuations.
A federal judge ruled on the Jefferson map and found for the plaintiffs that sued the county, finding that the use of the prison was an unconstitutional gerrymander. The decision was narrow and specific to Jefferson, and, potentially, counties with similar issues. The court found that since the prison was such a large part of the county’s population of the district (over 30% if the population), the population deviation was far too large. In addition, the court ruled that since the prison was a state-run prison and the county and school board had no say over the conditions/policies of the prison, there was a disconnect between the prisoners inside and the local elected officials. Excerpts of this argument can be seen here. You can click the images to enlarge.
In essence, the court gave credence to the notion of prison populations being counted as part of congressional or legislative lines because state/federal lawmakers can exercise some authority and influence with prisons. In addition, prisoners can write their lawmakers about issues or concerns they have. The court found that prisoners can be considered constituents of high-level lawmakers, but not constituents of the Jefferson School Board or County Commission because those local boards have no say or influence with the prison that operates in their borders.
The court, however, did not address the racial disparity issues as much, and when a new map was submitted by the county, the court found the racial concerns raised to not be compelling enough to warrant another redraw and that the minority population of District Three was large enough, 40%, to give African-Americans a chance to win the seat. I argue the new map is far too similar to the old when it comes to racial makeup and that the parties involved looked too closely at population versus voting performance.
The New Lines
With the order to redraw the district lines while not accounting for the population of the prison, the main issue was that District Three was dramatically underpopulated. The commission’s consultants clearly took pains to draw new lines while at the same time maintaining the same general spirit of the old districts.
The chart below shows the raw population data and registration data for the old (current) and newly proposed districts. Overall, the racial makeup of the districts remains largely the same.
The third district had a solid African-American minority population, but it is virtually unchanged from the old lines. District Three becomes less African-American in terms of overall population, but that is because the prison was removed. The overall registration data for District Three did not change much. However, District Two saw its African-American share of registration fall thanks to ceding some African-Americans and taking in more whites. The shift in District Two is troubling, since taking in more whites was not needed to keep its population in the proper range, but overall District Two will remain an African-American seat. The problem is District Three showing no electoral improvement for African-Americans from the old lines.
When looking at the electoral results, we see little change in the dynamics again. District Two remains an African-American seat in performance while District Three is favorable to African-Americans in the August primaries, but less so in the general elections. In a non-partisan August primary, the third district was 50% African-American in 2014, but it fell to 38% in November as more whites turned out. While the Democratic primaries are more solidly African-American, I wrote in my initial article that local white Democrats can and have opted to run as NPA candidates to avoid the primary and run in the general elections, which are more white. In addition, the African-American share of the August primary in District Three only topped 50% in 2014, and could easily fall this year if turnout fluctuates again.
My initial analysis delved more into registration shifts and racial dynamics in Jefferson, so I again urge you to refresh yourself on that here. The old lines had clear issues with providing a second district with a good chance of electing an African-American, and the new lines have a near identical result. The difference in District Three between the old and new lines is less than 1%.
There is a clear way to change these lines to better meet a goal of giving African-Americans a second shot at a county commission seat. The commission could have shifted the lines many different ways. The problems with the new lines for District Three is that they took in whiter regions and negated to take in African-American census blocks further south.
This map shows the old districts color-coded, with the new lines overlaid. You can see District Three took in some portions of all the districts, notably 5, 4, and 1.
Now, look at that map compared to the racial makeup of the census blocks of Jefferson County (with the new lines overlaid).
The regions taken in from District 4 and 1 were heavily white, while heavily African-American regions deeper in District 5 were over-looked. A few African-American blocks were added in from Districts 5 and 1, resulting in a district with a near identical racial makeup as the old one, just with more actual eligible voters.
The new district lines remove the serious issue of prison gerrymandering in Jefferson. However, further improvements are needed to the commission lines to better reflect the racial makeup of Jefferson.
Super Tuesday delivered strong for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both candidates walked away with large delegate leads many states in their column. Both did especially well in the southern primaries. Trump won several of the southern primaries with double digit wins and Clinton dominated the south, getting more than 60% in Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Virginia.
Florida’s primary is 2 weeks away and the Alabama and Georgia results may offer a clue at at how the northern region of the state may vote. Georgia and Alabama share three media markets with Florida, which include 21 of Florida’s 67 counties.
People living in these counties share news, ads and their geographic proximity links them. The borders of the state do not stop the culture from merging.
As Florida Media guru Kevin Cate says regarding the Republican primary,
“Republican primary voters in these counties are sharing the same news, same jobs, and same lifestyles with many of their neighbors in North Florida. Lower Alabama and Georgia voters are a predictor of how many North Florida voters have already, or will be voting. Outliers may include Leon, Duval, an Clay, but when you start getting further outside of the population centers, the more similar the Republican primary electorate becomes — and they love Donald Trump.”
Cate is correct, the North Florida counties, many of them sharing a media market, are more conservative and rural, two groups Ted Cruz, but much more so Donald Trump, have done well with. It is a region and block of voters that Rubio, however, has done especially poor with. Rubio’s best groups are moderates and more urban/suburban settings — which are limited in the northern end of Florida. Moderates only made up 18% in Georgia and 20% in Alabama, and Rubio still lost these voters to Trump by double digits. Cruz’s struggle to stay in the game is hurt by Trump starting to tie or beat him with ‘Very Conservative’ voters, as he did on Super Tuesday in these two states. This region is also an area where Gingrich did very well against Mitt Romney in 2012, further cementing the regions conservative bent.
On the Democratic side, the results give Clinton reason to believe her Florida showing, already polling at a 20% win, will include strong showings in North Florida. Clinton dominated in both Georgia and Alabama, getting over 70% of the vote. Clinton won whites and got over 80% of African-Americans across the south.
Sanders has been counting on winning less-educated working class whites, and while it appears that plan worked in Oklahoma, it did not play out well in the other southern states.
The Three Markets
Lets look at each of the three media markets that Florida shares. First up is the market shared with Alabama
The market covers the coastal and some inland counties in Alabama that sit right next to Florida’s western panhandle. Trump won a resounding victory in Alabama’s Mobile market, getting 46% of the vote, with Cruz and Rubio all the way down at 19-18%. Clinton, meanwhile, got 80% of the vote, winning every county and racking up a huge margin in Mobile. The market in Alabama and Florida has large coastal communities and strong military presence via bases. It is not hard to see the market as a whole voting similar across state lines. Romney managed modest wins in Okaloosa in 2012, but that was followed by winning Mobile and Baldwin in the Alabama primary. With Rubio tanking in both of those large Alabama counties, its unclear how well he will do well across the state line. That will be a test of his home field advantage.
For each market I grabbed voter registration figures by race. Alabama and Georgia do not have party registration, so to be consistent my Florida figures are also not broken down by party. The Alabama region was much more African-American, which could allow Sanders to do better in the Florida region of the market. However, for Sanders the question will be what the racial makeup of the closed Democratic primary is. In 2014 the primary in the Florida section of this market was 33% African-American. The market in Alabama may have been more African-American in Democratic primary turnout since many of the whites cast votes on the GOP side, but exact figures are not available yet.
The next market to look at is the Tallahassee – Thomasville Market
This market include the rural conservative counties of North Florida and South Georgia that surround Tallahassee and Thomasville. The results were similar to Alabama – a solid Trump win and a Clinton dominating. Trump, like Gingrich, could do very well in the rural counties around Tallahassee (which will likely back Rubio). Cruz did better in this market than in Alabama thanks to large Evangelical voters in the region, which will also be a factor in the counties surrounding Tallahassee. Cruz could still do decent in the Florida counties in this market, while Rubio may not find many friends out of the capital. Rubio’s only hope for this market is to rack up a large margin in Tallahassee to offset loses elsewhere.
Clinton is poised to do well in the market by winning African-Americans and holding her own with rural whites. The demographics of these two region are closer as well across the state line. In Florida’s portion of the market, over 43% of the Democratic Primary in 2014 was African-American, which is probably similar to what the share of the Georgia primary vote was. This all points to a solid Clinton win in the market, though the margin will likely be determined by African-American turnout and how the large white liberal population of Tallahassee votes. Sanders will be banking on large student turnout at FSU, TCC, and a good showing with FAMU students.
And last, the Jacksonville market
The Jacksonville and Tallahassee markets are fairly similar, with Trump winning big and Clinton dominating. The Florida portions of this market are more dominated by Jacksonville and its suburbs, which will be important for Rubio as he tries to not get flat-lined in the North. Rubio may do much better in this market than he did in the Georgia half, as suburbs in Duval, St Johns, and Clay should be friendly to him. However, if Trump takes these regions or ties Rubio, then the Senator will be in for a long night in Florida. Expect Rubio to fair poorly in the rural counties on the outskirts of the market.
Clinton has a solid win in the Georgia portion of the market, but it was he weakest showing of the three. The lower African-American share is one key culprit. The Florida market has similar demographics, meaning Sanders could have a better showing here. However, the closed Democratic primary in Florida in 2014 for this market was 38%, which is likely similar to the Georgia half (like Alabama we dont have turnout figures yet). If Clinton keeps up her trend of dominating with African-Americans and doing decent with whites, she will win this market. However, Sanders would be able to shift the margin (though not likely win) with student turnout at the University of North Florida and by doing well with the liberal communities in Jacksonville. That said, Clinton is still a favorite to win this region with a healthy margin.
With two weeks to Florida it is entirely possible different dynamics could emerge to change these projections. Nevertheless, the Alabama and Georgia results give us an opportunity to see how the voters of North Florida, especially outside the urban areas, are inclined to vote. These results are good for Trump and Clinton and bad for Sanders and Rubio. Unless things change quick, the Florida panhandle could be Clinton and Trump country on March 15th.