Redistricting season is upon us, and the more and more I read about redistricting in the other states… the more I wish redistricting was handled by an independent commission rather than the legislature, but whatever. Its hard to predict what is going to happen here in my home state of Florida. With Republicans controlling a super-majority in both houses and Rick Scott has governor, Democrats normally wouldn’t have much hope. However, there are a few things going for us Democrats. First, the current congressional and legislative lines are already gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Second, and most important, amendments 5 & 6 passed in 2010 and where added to the Florida constitution.
Amendments 5 ands 6, known as Fair Districts, mandate that Florida draw its congressional and legislative districts in compact ways; honoring city, county, and community of interest boarders as best as possible, and drawn to not favor any party or incumbent. The amendments passed with 63% of the vote and had broad support, which should put pressure on the legislature to abide by those rules (we can hope).
This post is focusing on just congressional districts, so from this point on thats all I am talking about. I may do a later post on possible state legislative maps.
Right now the congressional lines are drawn to favor the Republicans. Many districts take odd twists and turns, and are designed to preserve Republican dominance. Right now there are only 6 Democrats and 19 Republicans. Before 2010 it was 10 Democrats to 15 Republicans. For a swing state, there is clearly a large advantage for Republicans.
I invite you to go check the current congressional map in detail, it looks like a spiderweb.
The idea of compact districts has run into contention with the idea of “communities of interest,” specifically in regards to African American Representation. Right now Florida has 3 majority African American districts, each with African American representatives. Two of these districts are gerrymandered to hell to pack every African American in. The third is a monstrosity that stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando.
behold the 3rd.
Districts like the 3rd are drawn this way because in north Florida, there is no compact area of African Americans large enough to be in its own district. The result in the early 90s was the creation of this district, and the 23rd district in south florida (also gerrymandered) to create majority African American districts. The third of these districts is in fact a compact district, the 17th, located in south Broward/north Maimi-Dade. However, the 3rd and 23rd districts pack African Americans in and ensure the surrounding area is more safe for Republicans. Basically its 1 super-safe Democratic district (African Americans vote Democratic up to 90%) surrounded by a few safe Republican districts. This is a problem for me and many other liberals/Democrats. The issue is more divided in the minority community. Many black leaders argue the districts are needed to ensure minority Representation, while other black leaders argue electing more Democrats (which as a party is more aligned with minorities, especially African Americans) is a valuable outcome. The issue is still being debated in Florida right now. I take the stand in favor of compact districts that give Democrats a fighting chance in more areas. I believe that an African American majority district isnt needed to elect an African American (ask President Obama). I favor such districts (which from this point I will refer to as majority-minotory districts — a term used to describe a district that has a majority of its population being a nation-wide minority) when they are compact, but not when the span half the state like a snake.
Voting Rights Act
Many have argued that fair districts may go against the Voting Rights Act, which was implemented in 1965 to help enfranchise minorities (especially African Americans in the south) and end racial gerrymandering that used to carve up African American communities and disperse them over several districts and dilute their effect. The law was in response to southern areas where compact African American communities would have several districts go through the area, rather than keeping the community together and allowing it to elect and African American representative. White southerners would carve up these communities to dilute the African American vote, and that’s what the VRA aimed to stop.
This seems to have been taken to an extreme and some argue that the VRA REQUIRES the drawing of majority-minority districts. In fact it does not. It stipulates that districts must not racial gerrymander by splitting (called “cracking”) minority communities, and this is especially true if there is a reasonably compact community of minorities. However, two supreme cour t cases, Miller v Johnson and Shaw v Reno, have struck down bizarre districts drawn to encompass every minority possible. Some think the VRA mandates drawing majority-minority districts, but it doesn’t. It at simply means to stop the breakup of minority communities where possible. In Florida’s case, eliminating the 3rd or 23rd districts, which are drawn insane (i’m amazed they never went before the courts) would not violate the VRA. Eliminating the 17th, which is a compact black district, WOULD violate it. That is the difference. The same goes for the state’s hispanic population. There are several possibilities to create compact hispanic districts in south Florida. Any map that did not have such districts would also go against the ideals of the VRA.
Moving on, with all the legal stuff out of the way, I will now show what I believe a congressional map drawn with Fair Districts as a guideline could look like. Florida is gaining two more districts, going from 25 to 27. This map is gonna look very different from the current map. I did my best to preserve communties of interest where possible, honor county and city boundaries, and above all else, keep them compact.
So lets get started. First, here is a state-wide result. Check that quick, then we will go into each area in more detail.
Ok, now lets go into detail.
First, we take a look at the panhandle of Florida. The area is similar to the American south; very rural, locally democrat, but nationally Republican. The population is fairly low, so two districts cover the entire area.
District 1 (blue) doesn’t change much from what it is now. It covers the city of Pensacola to the very west, and several rural Republican counties. Like the current district 1, this is a safe Republican seat.
Partisan: Gave McCain 67.5% of the vote
Racial: 75% white, 13.7% black, 5.2% Hispanic
District 2 (green) includes many rural counties that surround Leon County and the state’s capital, Tallahassee. It also includes maj0rity-black Gadsen county. The district leans Republican thanks to the rural areas that surround Gadsen, Jefferson and Leon County. Overall, since Leon and Jefferson are compact (verses the current lines), the district is slightly less Republican. But still a lean Republican seat.
Partisan: Gave McCain 52.2% of the vote
Racial: 66% white, 24.6% black, 5.2% Hispanic.
The next region of the state is the Northeast and Centereast areas of the state. A good chunk of this area is rural, with key cities of Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and Gainseville in the area.
District 3 (purple) represents a most the the northern counties to the central and east and is largely rural. It surrounds most of downtown Jacksonville and eats slightly into Duval County. The district tracks along the rural areas around I-10. The district is a safe Republican seat.
Partisan: Gave McCain 69.7% and Obama 30.3%
Racial: 76% white, 12% black, 7% Hispanic.
lets skip to district 5, we will get back to district 4
District 5 (yellow) is another fairly rural county (although not as much as district 3) that largely boarders district 3. The districts includes Democratic Alachua County and the college town of Gainseville. It also includes all of Marion County (the biggest in the district) and the town of Ocala. Overall the district trends more right of center, with Gainesville standing out as the true blue spot of the district. The district trends slightly Republican, but can be a swing district, Obama came close to winning it in 2008.
Partisan: McCain 51.6%, Obama 48.4%
Racial: 72% white, 14% black, 9% hispanic
District 6 (green) goes along the northern coastal areas. The area includes St Jones county, Flagler and most of Volusia county along the the coast, and includes most of Putnam county more inside the state. It goes up to Jacksonville beach and goes down to Daytona Beach, and Port Organge. The district also includes Saint Augustine. The district travels along I-95. The district is a swing district, which Obama lost by only 2 percentage points.
Partisan: McCain 50.9%, Obama 49.1%
Racial: 77% white, 10% blaack, 9% hispanic.
Ok lets look back to district 4 in Jacksonville.
District 4 (red) represents downtown Jacksonville and works to keep as much of Duval Counties black community compact into the 4th district. This is the new result of the current 3rd district, which stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando. This district is compact and largely urban or suburban. The district narrowly went for Obama in 2008, and is over 30% black.
Partisan: 52.4% Obama, 47.6% McCain
Racial: 53% white, 33% black, 7% hispanic
Now we move down closer to the center of the state, and the areas of Orlando and Tampa. This area begins to see more Democratic seats pop up.
District 7 (grey) is largely southern Volusia county, all of Brevard county (which provides most of the distircts population), all of Indian River county, and some very large but sparsely populated precincts in Okeechobee county. The district has no major cities in it and is fairly rural or suburban. The district is likely Republican.
Partisan: 55.8% McCain, 44.2% Obama
Racial: 77% white, 9.5% black, 9% hispanic
District 8 (light purple) represents the last of the Northern rural precincts of the state. The district is very rural, including Sumpter and Citrus county. Western Volusia county is also included. The district is another likely Republican seat.
Partisan: 57.3% McCain, 42.7% Obama
Racial: 79% white, 7.7% black, 9.9% hispanic
lets move over to district 11
District 11 (light green) represents all of Osceola county, a fast growing Democratic County with a large hispanic population, and the towns of Kissimmii and St. Cloud. The county also includes outer boundaries of the equally Democratic Orange County. The district does not reach into downtown Orando. The district also has several hispanic areas of Polk county by taking in most of the eastern half, including the city of Winter Haven. The district leans Democratic, but could be a swing seat.
Partisan: 53.2% Obama, 46.8% McCain
Racial: 51.1% white, 12.9% black, 31.1% hispanic.
lets move over to districts 16-18, we will get back to Orlando and Tampa
District 16 (medium green) has many rural and suburban areas in it. It represents the rural counties of Desoto and Hardee, while also encompassing Manatee, and parts of Sarasota, Hillsborough, and Polk counties. While the district includes many rural areas, it includes a few Democratic cities and towns, such as Bradenton. The district includes part of Sarasota city as well. The district leans Republican.
Partisan: 54.1% McCaom. 45.9% Obama
Racial: 68.6% white, 10.1% black, 17.8% hispanic
District 17 (dark purple) includes most of Sarasota county and city, and includes Port Charlotte and Cape Coral. The district is largely a Republican district with some key Democratic areas. However, the Republican suburbs of Sarasota and Venice give the district a Republican lean.
Partisan: 53.2% McCain, 46.8% Obama
Racial: 84.8% white, 3.3% black, 9.2% hispanic
District 18 (yellow) covers most of Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding areas. This district includes many rural areas along the sugercane fields that surround the area of the lake. It includes many rural areas, but also has several big cities, and is home to St Lucie County and the city of Fort Pierce. The district includes democratic St Lucie County and several small Democratic cities home to the farm workers of the fields; especially in rural western Palm Beach county. However, St Lucie and the parts of Palm Beach county are the only Democratic counties in, however the large size of St Lucie gives the district a fairly even split partisan-wise. The district is a swing district that norrowly went to McCain.
Partisan: 50.8% McCain, 49.2% Obama
Racial: 67.4% white, 13.4% black, 16% hispanic
ok, now lets move back up to the two districts around Orlando
District 9 (light blue) represents Seminole County and the subrubs of Orlando in Osceola County, as well as other Osceola outskirt areas. Seminole county is a fast growing part of the Orlando metropolitan area and leans Republican slightly (giving Obama 48% of the vote). The suburbs of Orlando, trend both Republican and Democratic depending on the area (Maitland is Democratic, Winter Park is Republican). The other parts of Osceola included are largely Democratic, which mixed with Seminole County make up a lean Obama swing district.
Partisan: Obama 51.7%, McCain 48.3%
Racial: 61.6% white, 10.9% black, 20.8% hispanic
District 10 (pink) represents dowtown Orlando itself. The district is a mixture of races, only plurality white with a strong hispanic and black community. The district is a safe Democratic seat.
Partisan: Obama 63.1%, McCain 36.9% McCain
Racial: 40.3% white, 23.4% black, 28.3% hispanic
now we will move over to the Tampa metro area
District 12 (light blue) represents the southern 2/3 of Pinellas county. Its eastern boarder goes right up the water that separates the peninsula from Hillsborough county. The district includes St Petersburg, Largo, and most of Clearwater. The district contains most of the Democratic parts of the county, and thus is a lean to likely Dem seat.
Partisan: Obama 56.4, McCain 43.6
Racial: 74% white, 12.3% black, 8.3% Hispanic
District 13 (pink) includes most of Tampa and some of the communties to its north and along the Hillsborough coast. The district has some similarities to Kathy Castor’s current district, except it doesn’t include part of St. Pete and goes further into the county. Its a urban, safe Democratic seat.
Partisan: Obama 60.8%, McCain 39.2%
Racial: 46.2% white, 19.8% black, 28.6% Hispanic
District 14 (light brown) represents northern Pinellas county, Hillsborough County, most of Pasco county, and a slight part of Hernando county. It includes several Democratic cities along the coast, but also several Republican rural areas. Its a lean Republican swing seat.
Partisan: McCain 51.5%, Obama 48.5%
Racial: 82.8% white, 3.2% black, 9.8% Hispanic
District 15 (orange) covers many rural areas in-between Tampa and Orlando. Major cities include Lakeland and Plant City; which vote Democratic. The district has a significant and growing hispanic population around Plant City, but right now is predominantly rural white and Republican overall.
Partisan: McCain 53.9%, Obama 46.1%
Racial: 66.% white, 11.2% black, 17.2% Hispanic
now we move on to the southern area of the state. the western areas will provide Republican seats, but the populous southeast will give Democrats several seats.
District 19 (brown/green) represents the Republican southwest coast and the population centers of Republican Collier County. It includes the Naples area, a Republican suburb, and the Democrat Fort Myers. The districts southern border goes right along Alligator Alley. Most of the districts area is rural areas of Hendry county and eastern Collier. It also has a strong Hispanic community in rural Hendry as well as Naples and Fort Myers. The districts Republican suburbs make it a likely R seat.
Partisan: McCain 56.8%, Obama 43.2%
Racial: 64% white, 8.9% black, 24.2% Hispanic
District 20 (light pink) represents the very southern portion of the state. It covers rural southern Collier county, all of Monroe county and the the Florida keys, as well as southern Miami-dade. Cities include Marco Island, Key West, (really all the keys), Homestead, Florida City, and Cutler Bay. The strong hispanic presence in Miami-Dade ensures this is our the first majority-hispanic district on the list. It also a likely Democratic seat.
Partisan: Obama 56.3%, 43.7% McCain
Racial: 28.4% white, 13.5% black, 54.8% Hispanic.
District 21 (firebrick red) is on the top of the map, representing the West Palm Beach metro area. The district includes West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach, and Lake worth, all Democratic areas. This makes the district a safe Democratic seat made up of the city and the Democratic suburbs.
Partisan: Obama 62.5%, 37.5% McCain
Racial: 50.3% white, 20.4% black, 24.9% Hispanic
lets look at district 23 next
District 23 (light blue) covers most of the populous areas of Democratic Palm Beach County (except the West Palm Beach metro area). It is largely white, but these are largely liberal whites, Democratic retirees, and a strong Jewish community. Democratic cities of Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and Deerfield Beach (in north Broward county) are in this district. It is as Democratic as the 21st.
Partisan: Obama 62.1%, McCain 37.9%
Racial: 68.5% white, 13.5% black, 13.2% Hispanic
lets zoom in to the Broward/Miami-Dade county area to see the remaining districts. These dense districts include the Ft Lauderdale and Miami cities and their outer communities. Broward county is heavily Democratic, with only 4 of its 31 cities voting Republican. All but one of these districts are Democratic and several are majority-minority districts.
District 22 (brown) represents a good chunk of Ft Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Pompano Beach, and Hollywood. The district is very urban and has a very mixed racial makeup. It is a very safe Democratic seat.
Partisan: Obama 70.9%, McCain 29.1%
Racial: 43.2% white, 32.5% black, 19.8% Hispanic
District 24 ([purple) represents the liberal and Democratic suburbs of Broward county It includes Weston, Cooper City (my home town), Sunrise, Plantation, Davie, and Pembroke Pines. It also includes the unincorporated everglades areas that have no voters in them. The hispanic population is close to topping the white population, making it a minority access district.
Partisan: Obama 63.8%, 36.2% McCain
Racial: 38.5% white, 18.5% black, 36.2% Hispanic
District 25 (pink) is very similar to the current 17th, and is the new maps only majority African American district. It includes the African American centers of Miramar, Carol City, and North Miami. It is the safest Democratic seat in Florida.
Partisan: Obama 82.4%, McCain 17.6%
Racial: 8.4% white, 50% black, 38.7% Hispanic
District 26 (dark grey) hugs the beach communities of Broward and Miami Dade County. It moves further inland when getting to Miami itself, and includes the island communities that scatter along the coast. It is the states next majority hispanic district and is a likely Democratic seat.
Partisan: Obama 57.4%, McCain 42.6%
Racial: 34.3% white, 6% black, 56.8% Hispanic
District 27 (green) is the final district. It works to incorporate the cuban community of Miami-Dade. It includes Coral Torrace and of course, Hialeah (the 4th most Republican city in the county). The Cuban communities allegiance to the Republican Party means that even though this is an overwhelmingly hispanic district, its a Republican seat.
Partisan: McCain 63.2%, Obama 36.8%
Racial: 8.4% white, 0.9% black, 89.2% Hispanic
The resulting map is a start contrast from the current breakdown. In summary this creates a map of 13 Democratic seats, 12 Republican seats, and 2 super-swing seats. This fits in closer with the actual breakdown of the states registration, and reflects the true strength of the Democratic urban areas. Here is a view of the map colorized based off its political leanings.
The democratic districts match up well with the blue Southeast, and the Tampa and Orlando metro areas. The blue areas of Leon county and Alachua get take over by the rural areas around them, making them lean R seats. Overall the two maps show some clear similarities and shows that that this congressional map represents the political balance of the state of Florida.
Whether such a map will happen… that’s for time to tell….