Several hours ago, the Florida Supreme Court approved the state’s latest state senate map, a decision that came after the court had struck down several districts in the legislature’s original plan. While I have strong disagreements about the court’s latest ruling to uphold the new map, my intention is not to get into that issue. Instead, this blog entry seeks to simply educate the public on important details of the map, which now appears to be final.
I will not get into to much background on the process here. As many people know, the state of Florida set new redistricting requirements, known as the FAIR DISTRICT amendments. These measures where passed with 62% of the state, and required more compactness and no favoritism toward politicians or parties when the redistricting lines where drawn. To a degree, the new senate districts do look better than the old ones, but there are still many flaws with the map. Lets first start off with a view of the map, seen below.
These are the new senate boundaries. Several of them have major issues. But i will focus on a few key ones.
First, lets look at the 19th district, a plurality African-American district in the Tampa area. The district stretches over the Tampa bay and loops around the area in an effort to grab as many African-American voters as possible. Considering the African-American loyalty to the Democratic party, this helps Republicans in the surrounding districts (and it does).
Next, lets look at the Orlando area. Which has a snake-like district that packs in Hispanic voters, while having a Republican-favored district loop around its northern edge.
Next, we look at the 32nd district, a coast-hunger that crosses THREE counties.
Finally, we look at the 40th district, down in south florida. It covers many swaths of swampland and Everglades, and has appendages sneak into urban areas to pack in Hispanics and African-Americans.
These are the main district issues, but trust me most of the districts have problems and flaws. I invite you to view the map in more detail to examine for yourself the many flaws with the map.
Racial Breakdown of the Districts
The racial breakdown of this map is significantly altered from its previous incarnations. To a degree this was caused by requirements of the maps to be somewhat compact. However, poor drawing resulted in a map that has only 3 majority or plurality African-American districts. Two other districts that are less than 50% white do result in a Democratic primary that is likely to favor an African-American candidate (who can then win the general election). There are six plurality or majority hispanic district, with 5 of them being in the South Florida area, a reflection of the areas strong Hispanic population.
The two light-red districts in Orlando and Jacksonville are the districts with an African-American favored Democratic primary. The other light red district in south florida has significant African-American and Hispanic populations, as well a plurality white population.
This map shows the concentration of African-Americans by district.
The map shows the two light-red districts mentioned before have significant African-American percentages in the 30s and 40s.
Next is the map of Hispanic concentration.
This map shows how strongly concentrated Hispanics are in the osuth Florida region. Percentages don’t even top 10% north of Seminole County, and most of the large percentages are in South Florida (except for the Orlando district, whose Hispanic population is more than 50% Puerto Rican specifically.)
Partisan Breakdown of the Districts
The new district lines result in a map that has 17 district voting for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. That is 42% of the total 40 districts. This, despite Obama getting over 50% statewide. This shows the clear problem with the map. In addition, only 15 districts voted for Democrat Alex Sink for governor. In reality, the 17 districts is likely a high water mark. Sure, Democrats can win districts not favorable to the national party, but it is no doubt a tougher challenge, especially in an era of growing nationalization of local races.
The map below shows the Presidential percentages by district.
now lets see a zoom in for Central florida
then lets take a look at south florida
those three red districts that are also majority-hispanic are the three predominantly cuban districts for the region. These three districts are 53%, 46%, and 43% cuban. The cuban population favors Republicans, contrary to Hispanics nationwide.
The next map shows the districts based on how they voted for both the Presidential race and the Governors race. Blue districts voted for Obama and Sink, red voted for McCain and Scott, and green voted for Obama then Scott.
zoom in of central Florida
zoom in of south Florida
No doubt, the republicans where able to create a map that still favors them, despite the new compactness rules. Honestly the courts let them get away with more than they should have under the new plans, but this is the map we will be forced to contend with for the next 10 years. It is by far the worst map of the three, with the congressional and state house maps being fairer (despite having their own issues).
There is one key Republican who found herself in trouble as a result of the new map though. That is Senator Bogdanoff of South Florida (picture to right). She had a coast-hugging district in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which packed in the few Republicans (largely wealthy individuals who live on the beach coast) in the area. Under the first Senate plan, she had a district that voted for Obama, but then voted for Scott. Under this new map, the district voted Democratic for both races. In addition, she is now forced to fave off against Senator Maria Sachs, a well-known Democratic politican. Bogdanoff definitely drew the short end of the straw. Here is south Florida under the old plan. Her district was the long brown district up the whole coast.
The whole are was a huge mess, an insult to the area. Now look at the new map for the area.
That map is MUCH better. Bogdanoff is stuck in the yellow district, which is still a coast hugger, but the portions of Palm Beach move further inland into democratic territory. The Broward portion is kept on the coast because the green district is an African-American majority district working to consolidate African-Americans in that area of Broward. This new district is much tougher for Bognadoff to survive in. Especially considering that district is where two swing state-house districts are, which Democrats will be focusing on. Bogdanoff is going to get alot of attention, and she may not want that.
Overall, the map doesn’t provide a great outlook for Democrats. But Republican Senator Bogdanoff sure drew the short end of the straw here. She could hold on, her defeat isn’t fore sure. But she probably isn’t feeling as confidant as she once was under the old map. While Democrats focus largely on winning state house and congressional seats; Bogdanoff’s senate district will provide Democrats at least one strong pickup opportunity.