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Dividing Tallahassee into Single-Member Districts


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Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, home to over 180,000 residents, is currently served by 5 commissioners (four commissioners and one mayor) that are all elected citywide.  The city has no districts, with any candidate running city-wide and elected to the seat they file for.  There have been discussions about dividing the city into single-member districts, often with the notion of having 5 districts or 4 districts (and a mayor elected citywide).  However, for a city the size of Tallahassee, I feel 5 or 4 districts is simply not enough to represent the city.  Instead, I created a map that divides Tallahassee into 15 districts.  Such a scenario would result in a city-wide elected mayor; who under this proposal would operate more like a Chicago/NYC mayor (negotiations with commission, veto or sign laws, administrative duties).   Fifteen districts were chosen for an odd number (to limit tie’s) and to better represent the diverse nature of the city.

The Districts

The fifteen districts are shown below.


The goal in creating the districts was to combine compactness with a desire to accurately reflect the population of the city.  Communities of interest were paired together as much as possible.  However, while demographics factored into boundaries, compactness would not be sacrificed.  Snake-like districts like those scene in congressional maps are not desirable.  The goal of the commission districts is to elect people that represent the area (the unique community) in their district; not to represent a specific demographic group that might be stretched out across the city.

The software used only allowed me to use precinct-polygons to make these maps.  In an ideal situation, the districts seen would have a few more changes, with precincts carved up.  So while these districts represent where I would draw the lines to a degree, they are imperfect.  In some instances moving a district a few blocks further in or out was desired, but not feasible with the software.  The changes that would be made are minor, so it is OK to move forward.

District 1

district 1

District 1 represents the southernmost parts of Tallahassee.  It is an overwhelming African-American district that represents neighborhoods like South City and Oak Ridge.  It is a working class area and heavily Democratic district.  The area is made up of largely older long-time residents further south and FAMU students further to the north.  The districts boundaries in the south are like a web to reflect the cities southern border. Campaigning in the southern parts of the district would be very much block by block.

Racial Composition:  84% black, 10% white, 2% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  90% plus Democratic

District 2

district 2

This unique district is another African-American majority seat that houses the FAMU campus, parts of downtown south-side, and student dwellings further north.  This district aimed to be both African-American majority and have a strong student presence.  Prominent areas include Providence, All Saints,  and FAMU, as well as the downtown business sector.  The district is low income and young in age (reflecting the student population).

Racial Composition:  63% black, 24% white, 4% Hispanic

Partisan Composition:  80% plus Democratic

District 3

district 3

This mammoth of a district is large in land-mass but many of its areas are low population density.  The biggest bulk of the population is students in the north (student apartments) and long-time African-American residents further south (but north of Orange Ave).  The southern end of the district is simply the airport (no population) and some unorganized residencies.  Major neighborhoods and areas include Seminole Manor, Lake Bradford, Mabry Manor, and TCC.  The district is plurality African-American, and gets younger and poorer the further north it goes (reflecting the student population).  It is very Democratic, and acts as both a minority district and a student-centric district.

Racial Composition:  48% black, 41% white, 8% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  80% Democratic

District 4

district 4

This district is all about FSU.  The district includes the main campus and its housing/apartments/and other living arrangements around it.  The Chapel Ridge student living zone is to the west of stadium drive, while Frat and Sorority homes dot the Jefferson street area.  The area south of Pensacola St is largely student-rented homes as well as some full-time residents.  If I could break precincts I would have moved the district a few more blocks east to grab the last student Frats and Sororities.  The district is low income students and safe Democratic.  Its also the youngest district, with an estimated 90% of the population under the age of 24.

Racial Composition:  73% white, 10% black, 11% Hispanic

Democratic Composition:  65% plus Democratic

District 5

district 5

This district is a suburban middle class precinct on the central east side of Tallahassee.  The district stretches from Governor’s Square Mall to Lafayette Park; packing in similar middle class suburbs along the way.  The district is middle class suburban, with average income ranging from 30 to 60 thousand dollars a year.  The district is largely middle-aged adults/parents raising families.  Prominent neighborhoods include Lafayette Park, Old Town, and a southern portion of Betton Hills.  The district is populated by white collar, well-educated workers, with the percent of Bachelor Degrees ranging from 50% to 65%.  The district is suburban in nature but also largely Democratic-aligned.

Racial Composition:  77% white, 14% black, 5% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  60% Democratic

District 6

district 6

This suburban district to the south of district 5 combines famous Indianhead Acres and Meyers Park together with other assorted suburbs further east.  Indianhead, with its reputation for high political activism, sits at the center of this district, and its likely a commissioner would come out of that area (or with its support).  The district is similar to 5, with middle-class, white-collar families.  Income and education level are similar to district 5; although this district is even more Democratic.  Indianhead has the reputation of the middle class white suburb that ALWAYS votes Democratic and its nature helps shape the rest of the district.  A strong African-American presence in the district also makes it a minority-access seat and even more solid in the blue column in elections.

Racial Composition:  56% white, 34% black, 5% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  70% plus Democratic

District 7

district 7

District 7 is a combination of the south/central eastern Tallahassee.  It could easily be dubbed “the outsider” because it combines areas of Tallahassee that because of their location, are at times very much separated from the rest of Tallahassee.  Ignore the big rectangle at the bottom, it is an un-populated precinct.  Right about it is Southwood, an upper-class community that built less than two-decades ago.  Further up, to the east of Tom Brown Park, is Piney-Z, a suburban community with its own local elected officials, and to the far east is the Buck Lake Neighborhoods, which are the most isolated from the rest of the town.  All three of these major areas are connected with Tallahassee, but in many ways separated from it due to their location and the self-sustaining nature.  This district is also very well off economically, with Southwood and the Buck Lake families making over $100,000 a year.  The area is largely white upper-class, but still as a Democratic tilt.  Southwood is a swing precinct that never goes hard right, but generally leans Republican while Buck Lake votes a little more Democratic and Piny Z and the other scattered residencies are much bluer.  The district could easily elect a Republican, but a strong local Democrat especially out of Southwood (Gil Ziffer for example) could win.

Racial Composition:   61% white, 20% black, 8% hispanic, 9% asian (making it the highest asian % district in the city)

Partisan Composition:  55% plus Democratic

District 8

district 8

District 8 covers most of the eastern/central edge of Tallahassee above Buck Lake but under Killearn.  The district goes up Capital Circle E, including neighborhoods Mellody Hills, Centre Point Village, and Meadowbrook.  The district encompasses alot of loosely organized residential areas in many business districts that populated the Capital Circle area.  In general the district is fairly well educated and modest middle class (average income around $50,000).  It is a fairly loosely arranged district, taking in areas that have no specific ties elsewhere.

Racial Composition:  64%, black 24%, Hispanic 5%

Partisan Composition:  60% Democratic

District 9

district 9

Move back to the campus area and we get to district 9.  This district covers student dwellings right on the north side of the FSU campus, while taking in African-American Frenchtown.   The western part of the district includes Frenchtown and Levy Park, both populated by low-income long-time residents  The eastern side is more student-dominated, where the youth % dramatically increases. Both groups of long-time African-American residents and young FSU students make the district overwhelmingly Democratic and an African-American majority district.

Racial Composition:  55% black, 35% white, 6% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  85% Democratic

District 10

district 10

Move back to the east and we get to district 10, to the north of district 8.  District 10 is a collection of several subruban communities along Thomasville/Centerville/and Meridian Road.  Prominent communities include Waverly Hills, Woodgate, Betton Hills/Betton Woods, and Eastgate.  These communities are very similar in alot of ways; all boasting high education (over 60% bachelors degrees) and average income ranging from $80,000 to $100,000.  These suburbs are lean Democratic but easily break away to local Republicans or state-wide ones in redder years.  The district is ideal for a Republican like Steve Stewart (2010 Mayoral Candidate) who lives in Waverly.

Racial Composition:  77% white, 14% black, 5% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  53% Democratic

District 11

district 11

District 11 is the most northern of the districts.  It exists entirely above I-10 and takes in southern portions of Killearn Estates to the east, then goes up to the north/west to take in Ox Bottom Manor and Summerbrook.  Those two communities to the north are very Republican and high-income, while the area connecting them and the southern portion of Killearn are very low population.  The southern Killearn area in this district is actually nominally Democratic (compared to the rest of Killearn), but it is overridden by Ox Bottom and Summerbrook.  Summerbrook and Ox Bottom will likely dominate elections for this district.  Overall the district is largely white, upper-income (as high as $130,000) and Republican; one of only two district to have voted for McCain or Romney.

Racial Composition:  75% white, 13% black, 3% hispanic, 5% asian

Partisan Composition: 52% Republican

District 12

district 12

Heading back to the campus area of town, this district lies north of district 3 and west of district 9.  The entire district is confined between Tennessee Street (south) and Tharpe Street (North).  The area is largely student oriented, with some residentual suburbs off White Avenue in the San Luis neighborhood.  Otherwise the district largely encompasses student dwellings that dot the area.  The further west the district extends the less student-heavy it gets.  The district is 33% African-American and serves as both a student and African-American opportunity district.

Racial Composition:  52% white, 33% black, 10% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  75% Democratic

District 13

district 13

District 13 is a unique amalgamation of student-populated housing in its south and long-time residencies in the north.  Overall the entire district is suburban, home-dominated in nature; but students are known to rent out houses north of Tharpe street.  Their is a clear income and an age divide between the north and south 0f the district, which will create a unique dynamic when elections come around.  Due to low-turnout among students for local races; the north may very well determine the commissioner for the district. The districts 36% African-American population also makes it a strong minority-access seat.

Racial Composition:  53% white, 36% black, 7% hispanic.

Partisan Composition:  65% Democratic

District 14

district 14

To the west of district 13 lies district 14.  This district is composed of a several business districts and suburban communities in the upper-midtown of Tallahassee.  On the west side of Monroe street lies Forrest Heights, which combines student renters and suburban residents.  In addition, the area includes neighborhoods like Town and County and Parkside.  On the east side of Monroe Street is assorted residencies like Macon Community and the business district around Tallahassee Mall. The district is modest middle class, with an income around $40,000 a year; with the population split between white collar workers and blue-collar working class.

Racial Composition:  60% white, 28% black, 7% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  65% Democratic

District 15

district 15

The last of our districts is the the second and last to actually vote Republican in the Presidential election.  This district encompasses the majority of Killearn Estates, Foxcroft, and Royal Oaks.  The vast majority of the districts population lies in the Killearn area on the western half of the district with the eastern half largely being scarcely populated land.   The district is made up off well-educated (average 60% bachelors degree) white collar workers or business owners.  Income in the district ranges from $80,000 to $120,000 a year.  The district is sure to be a golden opportunity for a Republican politician.

Racial Composition:  84% white, 7% black, 4% hispanic

Partisan Composition:  56% Republican


This fifteen-district map aimed to balance compactness and neighborhood similarities with a desire to also balance racial considerations.  With the African-American population around 35% of the population, the ideal scenario is 1/3 of the districts would be African-American.  However, the desire for compactness and keeping similar communities together made such a scenario impossible.  The resulting map creating 3 majority African-America Voting-Age-Population districts, and an African-American plurality district (which is in fact majority African-America if not just counting voting-age-population); totaling four districts.  In addition, there are three minority-access districts; districts where the African-American voting-age-population is above 30%.  These three districts combined with the four others result in 7 of the 15 districts having a significant African-American influence.

The map below shows the demographics of the districts:  red represents majority-white, blue represents majority-black, light-blue represents plurality-black, and light-red represents minority-access.

15 race

In addition the political representation of the map also conveys the Democratic nature of Tallahassee.  A city that only gave Republican Presidential candidates between 33% and 31% of the vote only has two districts that cast ballots for a Republican Presidential candidate.  The map below shows the averages between the 2008 and 2012 races.  Dark blue is Obama over 60%, light blue is Obama over 50% but less than 60% and red is Republican win.

15 partisan

Overall, this district map does its best to represent Tallahassee while balancing a whole host of different concerns and needs to create an effective map.  Whether Tallahassee ever implements such a system remains to be seen, but any such map should work to balance communities, demographics and compactness.  I believe this map does its best to balance that.


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