Several articles on my website have dealt with Florida’s redistricting process. I have highlighted the new maps the legislature approved last year, and offered my own version of what a better congressional map would look like. Florida, unlike many other states, was not able to get away with overtly gerrymandering their lines thanks to the Fair Districts Amerndments that were based in 2010. These amendments, one for the state legislative boundaries and one for the congressional boundaries, mandated that district lines, while accounting for minority populations, be compact and have no political motivation. The amendments passed overwhelmingly.
After the passage of the new districts, which were certainly more compact than previous lines, there were still many issues. Ridiculously drawn districts that packed in minority voters remained, as did other questionable appendages to districts. While the maps were much improved from the last decade, they still had issues. Soon enough, a lawsuit was filed over the congressional boundaries.
The details of the lawsuit are well document, so I will not re-hash them here. The short and sweet is that the plaintiffs argued the Republican-legislature drew districts with clear partisan intend with the aid of political consultants. Smoking guns included the deletion of emails between staff and consultants, and the fact that the congressional map was based off a map submitted by college student, who subsequently admitted at the trial that he had not drawn the map (and was therefor just a front person for the map). Everything pointed to the notion that the legislature colluded with republican consultants to draw the maps, and went through channels to communicate.
The ruling followed a few weeks later, the legislature had violated the Fair District Amendments. The judge berated the legislature, and specifically threw out two districts; 5 and 10. The judge ordered these districts be redrawn. The redrawing of these districts would also result in several neighboring districts being redrawn as well.
Lets look at each of these two districts. First lets look at district 5.
District 5, or some variation of it, has been around since the early 1990s. It was originally drawn by the courts to create a district that would elect an African-American. It has subsequently been altered but kept by the Republican legislature, who saw a strong benefit in packing black voters from Jacksonville to Orlando. The districts snakes down the state, hitting Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Orlando. In addition, it grabs pockets of African-Americans in Putnam and Seminole counties. The district is 52% African-American and heavily Democratic. The district has always stood as a testament to racial gerrymandering. In the guise of protecting minority voters, it packs them in and “bleaches” the other districts, making them more Republican. The judge threw this district out. In addition, during his opinion, the judge made a point to express that the VRA does not require a district that snakes from Jacksonville to Orlando. The VRA mandates minority-majority districts when the minority community is compact, as the judge points out, and the Jacksonville to Orlando district is not recognized as compact. How far this ruling will be taken regarding district 5 remains to be seen. But I feel it means it cannot go down to Orlando.
The second district to get thrown out was District 10, seen below.
This district is a fairly swingish one but leans Republican. It gave Obama 45.7% of the vote, and had a very competitive congressional race in 2012 where Democrat Val Demings nearly knocked off Republican Incumbent Daniel Webster. The district is fairly compact, but the judge threw the district out thanks to its appendage in the center-east of the district. The hook into Orlando goes around the African-Americans currently in the 5th district, and avoids the Hispanics in the 9th. The judge ruled this was about helping make Webster safer, not about keep all minority voters in districts 5 and 9.
The order to redraw both 5 and 9 has major implications for the congressional map. District 5 touches so much of the state that any redraw of it effects every district in the area. If the legislature is forced to redraw the districts, assuming an appeal fails, the map below shows which districts are likely to be effected. I am assuming the legislature will try to contain the changes as much as possible.
There are many variables, and infinite possibilities for what shifts could happen The Republicans will try and protect their people, however they will have a microscope on them and will know their actions will be closely watched. I drew up what an alternative map may look like. However, I stress that there are many possibilities. The map below shows the new districts for the region. Any areas in grey are districts that were not changed.
Lets go through each district changed
District 5 (Yellow) — The district can no longer be African-American majority since it can no longer go down to Orlando. I would prefer a district confined to Duval (my ideal map, posted on the site way back, has a district just in Duval), but one common talking point is a district that goes into Gainesville and gets as many African-Americans in the area it can. The district takes in the African-American community in Jacksoville, Gainesville, parts of Putnam, and St Augustine. It takes in additional suburban precincts to get enough population. All of Gainesville is put in the district, taking votes away from district 3. It is around 32% Voting Age Population African-American. A democratic primary would be closer to 40% or 45% African-American, and the Democratic nominee would be favored in this 60% Obama district. This district is perfectly capable of election an African-American democrat. Representative Brown doesn’t want any changes to her district, so I doubt she will be happy. The district still looks ridiculous, but no worth than district 20, which was upheld in South Florida.
District 4 (Green) — This district remains heavily Republican. It loses some votes from Duval thanks to district 5, and makes up for it by going down into super-Republican St. Johns county. Safe R. Representative Crenshaw shouldn’t mind the shifts.
District 3 (Purple) — The heavily rural and Republican district loses the western half of Gainesville, but I make up the population by giving it more of Ocala in the south and some rural precincts. The districts changes could give former Congressman Cliff Sterns an incentive to challenge Congressman Yoho in the primary in 2016 (he was from Ocala). Either way the district stays Republican.
District 6 (blue) — This coastal district becomes more Democratic friendly thanks to two key changes. It loses most of St Johns County to districts 5 and 4, taking heavily Republican turf out. As a result, it must go down into Seminole county, which is Republican, but has Democratic pockets. The district voted for Obama in 2008, but swung away to only 47% in 2012. However, Nelson won the district with 54%, and it is much more swing-ish than under the current lines. Congressman DeSantis won’t like these changes.
District 11 (red) — This conservative district loses parts of Ocala to district 3, so it needs new population. I gave it rural areas that were connecting District 5 to central Florida, in addition to a top sliver of rural Lake County from district 10. I try to take from the northern areas to avoid effecting districts further south. Congressman Nugent would feel little effect of the changes.
District 7 (violet) — This Republican district, held by Congressman Mica, gets a makeover. It has lost half of Seminole County to district 6. I make up for it by giving it whiter areas that were in district 5 and the white areas that were in the appendage/hook that was part of district 10. Like district 6, this was an Obama district in 2008, but fell to 47% Obama in 2012 thanks to shifts in the white suburbs.
District 10 (orange) — The final changed district. Webster gets a short end of the stick here. Someone was. the major problem for the Republicans is what to do with the African-Americans in Orlando, who cant be part of district 5 anymore. There would be no justification to add them to district 9 in the south, which is meant to be a Hispanic district. Either Mica or Webster must absorb the African-Americans, either move making the district vulnerable. Splitting the community between the two would scream of partisan design. Someone must take them all. In this case, I give it to Webster, which shoots his district up to 54% Obama.
The partisan makeup of these new districts is below.
These African-Americans in Orlando have to go somewhere, and Mica or Webster are most likely to find them in their district.
This image below shows my new districts with the old boundaries on top, to show where the shifts are.
The rest of the state would not be effected by these shifts.
What the legislature ends up doing is hard to say. They will definitely appeal the decision, and any changes are not likely till 2016. They can get creative with their changes. However, the reality of the African-American block in Orlando will mean at least one Republican congressman gets a major headache. In addition, two districts, 6 and 7, are much more in play for Democrats if a map similar to this is implemented. No doubt the Republicans can come up with other changes to mitigate Democratic gains, but again, they will be under a microscope. They can’t risk getting too ambitious.