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labarga Retain
Elections, Florida

The Regional Disparity in Florida’s Judicial Retention Elections

Last week, the Florida House passed a bill creating 12 year term limits for Supreme Court Justices.   Florida justices already must retire around or shortly after their 70th birthday and face a retention election every 6 years.   The main argument for the term limits proposal was that justices have never lost their retention votes, making them less checked than the other chambers of FL government.  The Florida legislature’s conflicts with the FL Supreme Court are well documented in FL politics. Continue Reading

2016 President, Florida, Municipal, Tallahassee

How High-End Student Complexes Created the Most GOP Precinct In Leon County

Leon County is one of only six Florida counties to vote Democrat for President in every election since 1992.  A combination of three campuses (FSU/FAMU/TCC), a notable African-American population, and a large base of state employees, make it a reliable Democratic county.  That said, there are plenty of Republican strongholds in the region.  Leon’s northern suburbs are typically a reliable Republican base and County District 4, located in the Northeast end of the county, has stayed Republican for decades.  Those who follow Leon politics will often name Golden Eagle, a high-end gated community, or Killearn Lakes, a large gathering of high priced suburban houses, as some of the most reliable Republican areas top and down ballot.  Fort Braden, a rural community on the southwest end of the county, is often seen as a solidly Republican area. Continue Reading

Deerfield Mayor1
Florida, Municipal

Results of 2017 Broward Municipal Elections

A handful of Broward’s 30+ cities held their municipal elections on March 14th.  While more cities are moving their elections to correspond with the federal/state races; plenty, citing a desire to keep low-key races from getting lost in the shuffle, opt for spring elections.  Some elections where contentious while others proved to be blowouts.

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2016 House President1
2016 President, Florida

Presidential Results by Florida State House District

In 2015, Florida’s Congressional and State Senate districts where struck down as GOP gerrymanders that violated the Fair District Standard of the Florida Constitution.  However, Florida’s state house districts never saw a similar challenge.  The plaintiffs that successfully sued over the U.S. House/Florida Senate maps plainly stated that the cost of research into so many districts was much of a financial burden.  Thus, Florida’s 2016 elections commenced under the same map from 2012.

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Senate Compare
2016 President, Florida, Redistricting

Presidential Results by Florida Senate District and the Impact of Redistricting

In  2015, Florida underwent mid-decade redistricting for its state senate lines, around the same time it was forced to redraw its congressional boundaries.  Unlike the congressional case, where the state supreme court ordered a redraw, the legislature avoided a verdict and agreed to redraw their lines after evidence came to light that the legislature had worked to circumvent the Fair Districts Amendments passed in 2010.  After a special session that resulted in no final map, the court picked a plan chosen by the plaintiffs that sued over the lines.   The case was closed and Florida conducted its elections with new state senate lines. Continue Reading

SD19 Results
Florida, Redistricting

Florida Senate District 19 Primary: Battle of the Bay

Anyone who followed my Florida redistricting coverage in 2015 knows I was strongly against a senate district that linked Tampa and St Petersburg by crossing the Tampa Bay.  The argument was that only by linking the African-Americans of Tampa and downtown St Peterburg could a proper African-American access seat be created.  The flaw in this argument was that the legislature relied on outdated data and ignored recent elections that had taken place after large African-American registration increases in Tampa.  At the end of the day, a district crossing the Tampa Bay was adopted.  This set off a major primary for the open seat. Continue Reading

2012 Burkett
Elections, Florida

The Tale of the Panhandle Protest Vote: Expect anti-grayson and anti-murphy votes in North Florida

On the night before the 2014 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, I correctly predicted that Nan Rich would do best in the rural panhandle of Florida.  My prediction was based off a recent history of unknown candidates doing very well in the panhandle as a way of conservative, southern democrats casting protest votes.  My logic was simple:  conservative rural democrats in these counties show up to vote for local offices, where Democrats still maintain control, but reject the well-known Democrats for top-of-the-ballot races because they plan to vote GOP in the fall. Continue Reading

2016 Libertarian Reg
Elections, Florida

Florida’s First Minor-Party Primary: Battle of the Libertarians

On the August 30th ballot, for the first time in Florida’s history, there will be a primary for a minor party nomination for US Senate.  Candidates Augustus Invictus and Paul Stanton are set to face off.  The race will only be on the ballot of registered libertarians, who only make up just over 26,000 of the state’s 12.3 million registered voters.

Ultimate Outsider vs Insider Election Continue Reading

New Commission Compare
Elections, Florida, Municipal, Redistricting

New Jefferson Commission Map Still Hurts African-Americans

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.

New Commission Compare

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.

Jeff District Pop

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.

New Commission Election Chart

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.

New Commission

Now, look at that map compared to the racial makeup of the census blocks of Jefferson County (with the new lines overlaid).

New Commission Race

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.